Mid-Major Morning Mashups: March 7, 2011

I don't know if yesterday will go down as upset Sunday, but it wouldn't be hard to make an argument for it.

Of the 21 conference tournament games that were played, 10 ended with a lower seed the victor, including Indiana State's win over Missouri State in the Missouri Valley Conference title game. Throw in Bucknell's two-point win over Lehigh in the Patriot League semifinals and the upset seesaw was within a play or two of tilting beyond the halfway mark for the day. We're reaching the point of anarchy ladies and gentlemen. Seven - count 'em - seven number one seeds were abruptly shown the door today. No one is safe anymore, but then again that's the beauty of it all isn't it?

There is no justice at this time of year. The Missouri State's of the world will spend the next seven days agonizing over what could have been while they wait for their fate to be determined by a close door meeting. In Burlington, VT, Catamount fans won't even bother holding a collective breath for their beloved University of Vermont men's basketball team, they already know the NIT is waiting.

It's why we love it. It's why we hate it. It's what makes March, March. On with the show.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "By winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament Sunday, Indiana State received an expenses-paid trip to the NCAA Tournament. Larry Bird U. is going dancing with the stars. And by losing to Indiana State, the Missouri State Bears have been sent to the corner to wait, worry and wonder if the NCAA Tournament will still have room for them. A mixture of anxiety and anger is MSU's reward for a superb 15-3 league record, a first-place finish and 25 regular-season wins. Unless every bracketologist is completely wrong, the NCAA won't be sending an invitation to Springfield, Mo. Those at-large invitations will go to the also-rans in the power conferences. That's the way it works in the NCAA college-basketball cartel. Too many mediocre teams can hide behind their conference affiliation, which provides shelter and security. This is why Missouri State fans were stone-cold silent at the end of Missouri State's 60-56 loss to the Sycamores. Bears fans have seen this movie before. They know how it will end. The town will not be saved from the monsters of the Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, etc. The power conferences will big-foot their way to most of the NCAA at-large bids."

Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star: "They are cautiously hopeful, and should be, but they are also staring down the disappointment of what will most likely be another NCAA Tournament played without them. There may not be a program in the country that better represents this particular brand of sports heartbreak than Missouri State. The 2006 team still owns the highest RPI (21) to be rejected by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The 2000 (34) and 2007 (37) teams are also in the top five. Back in 1997, Steve Alford coached his guys to 24 wins and a 42 RPI and settled for the NIT. That's strikingly close to the resume Missouri State has this season, the one that will likely be rejected again: 25-8 and the No. 37 RPI according to CollegeRPI.com entering Sunday."

Steve Porter of The Telegraph: "College basketball is big in the Hoosier State. All you have to do is check the enthusiasm levels at Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler and, of course, Indiana University. Those readings can be off the charts, particularly during the mystical madness of March. Indiana State of Terre Haute created its own kind of Hoosier Hysteria the past weekend at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis. The 20-13 Sycamores defeated top-rated Missouri 60-56 in front of 10,171 fans Sunday at Scottrade Center and snared their first conference tourney title since 2001. "I don't know if it's the biggest thing that has happened in our community for a long time, but it's the best thing now," first-year Sycamores' coach Greg Lansing said. "Our community has rallied around us.'"

Tim Pearrell of the Richmond Times-Dispatch:"The Virginia Commonwealth University team that faded in February has found resurrection in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Now a team that has elevated its level of play needs to do it one more time to get in the NCAA tournament. VCU whipped top-seeded George Mason University 79-63 Sunday in the CAA semifinals, exacting revenge for a 20-point drubbing at home at the hands of the Patriots three weeks ago and ending Mason's 16-game winning streak...'These teams in the CAA, they're not going to give you anything,' VCU coach Shaka Smart said. 'It's too good of a league. You have to go take it from them. For two consecutive days, we've done that now. But two's not good enough. We've got to make it three.'"

Bob Molinaro of the Virginia-Pilot: "For those who don't recall, ODU was in a hostile environment last season when the Monarchs defeated VCU in the semi-finals before going on to claim the tournament title. And this season, ODU surprised VCU at the Siegel Center, the Rams' on-campus gym, an environment every bit as raucous as the Coliseum will be tonight. In both instances, Taylor's players tuned out the crowd. They say they will again. There's no reason to think they won't. In any case, the so-called crowd hostility will only enhance the moment for a mid-major conference in need of vivid exposure. With the Coliseum rockin' - and ODU fans providing their own fair share of vocal intensity - the final has a better chance of becoming a hardwood happening."

Rich Campbell of the Fredericksburg News: "George Mason had hoped to avoid this specific indignity this weekend at the CAA tournament. The Patriots' regular-season championship, their 16-game winning streak entering yesterday's semifinal against VCU and, perhaps most importantly, their No. 24 ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index make a self-explanatory, strong case for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. However, they weren't enough to prevent a round of uncomfortable questions after VCU dismantled George Mason in a 79-63 victory at Richmond Coliseum. Patriots coach Jim Larranaga and leading scorer Cam Long had to defend their team's NCAA resume after appearing worthy of a lesser reward in a game that was never close in the second half. 'The bubble is a hot-air balloon now,' Larranaga said. 'On TV, [analysts'] bubble goes down to, like, 86 in the RPI. If those teams are on the bubble and our RPI is in the 20s, I think we're sitting in pretty good shape.' The Patriots (26-6), however, could have erased all doubt by winning this tournament."

Sean Brennan of the New York Daily News: "It was Saturday night, and the Iona Gaels were mere hours away from playing in the biggest game of their college careers to date. So, were they watching film? Talking strategy? Getting extra sleep? No. Iona, which was lodged on the same hotel floor as St. Peter's, engaged in a rather unusual pre-game ritual. 'They had a dance-off with St. Peter's in the hallway,' Iona first-year coach Tim Cluess said. 'We had two loose teams there last night.' Now those same two teams will be vying in a different sort of dance-off Monday night, one that will send the winner to the NCAA's Big Dance when the Gaels and Peacocks meet in the MAAC championship game."

Doric Sam of The Statesman: "The bleachers at Chase Family Arena in Hartford rocked as the red horde bounced up and down, screaming at the top of their lungs: "I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!" Their beliefs were justified, as the #5 Stony Brook Seawolves pulled off an upset of the finest quality, knocking off the regular-season champion Vermont Catamounts, 69-47, Sunday night in the America East semifinals. The result means thatStony Brook will make its first ever appearance in the America East championship game, playing at #2 Boston University at noon on Saturday (ESPN2)."

Kathy Orton of the Washington Post: "After the buzzer sounded on American's 73-71 double-overtime loss to Lafayette in a Patriot League semifinal, the players jogged off the court in stunned disbelief mixed with profound grief. Vlad Moldoveanu, who wanted nothing more than to win a championship, pulled his jersey over his face to hide the tears streaming down his cheeks. "I'm really sorry that this team couldn't bring back the championship to where it belongs," said fellow senior Nick Hendra, who also wept openly after the loss. "I feel personally responsible for that.'"

Jim Meehan of the Spokesman Review: "Gonzaga's Marquise Carter showed why he was voted WCC newcomer of the year and reserve wing Mike Hart showed why head coach Mark Few trusts him in critical defensive situations.
Second-seeded Gonzaga repelled numerous second-half rallies by No. 3 San Francisco as Carter hit seven free throws in the final 43 seconds and the Bulldogs hung on for a 71-67 victory in the WCC men's basketball tournament semifinals Sunday in front of 7,489 at the Orleans Arena. "The coaches make sure we get up a lot of free throws, even when we're tired," said Carter, who finished 10 of 12 at the free-throw line. "Stepping to the line, it seems really relaxing for me." Carter led a balanced GU attack with a team-high 18 points, helping Gonzaga (23-9) advance to the title game for the 14th straight season. Top-seeded Saint Mary's (24-7) defeated No. 4 Santa Clara 73-64. Gonzaga and Saint Mary's shared the WCC regular-season title, splitting two thrillers that came down to the closing seconds.

Elton Alexander of The Plain Dealer: "With Cleveland State's third loss of the season to Butler, Saturday night in Milwaukee, the Vikings are now on the NCAA Tournament bubble with all the other hopefuls around the country.
As of Sunday the RPI still says Cleveland State (No. 43) is one of the top teams in the country; better than No. 46 Michigan State and No. 48 Florida State and No. 55 Clemson and No. 67 Gonzaga. All of those teams are considered on the bubble as well, if not already in. That should warrant the Vikings consideration as a NCAA Tournament at-large team. "I hope they consider us," head coach Gary Waters said after the setback to Butler. "I think this is a tournament team. Norris [Cole], there is still more left in him.'"

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