In the dawn of March Madness and the many post-season college basketball tournaments, mid-major conference tournaments are either underway or about to tip-off to crown a champion around the country. CollegeInsider.com's Mid-Major Top-25 rankings (found here: http://www.collegeinsider.com/mmpoll/) feature teams from a number of conferences all over the nation, with many teams vying for a post-season tournament opportunity. Here's a look at some top-conference tourney action and potential post-season members:
The Big South saw the Winthrop Eagles (19-13) shocked top-seeded Coastal Carolina (28-6) in a 64-53 upset to capture the school's ninth conference championship in twelve years on Saturday. The third-seeded Eagles, only the second #3 seed to win the Big South Conference Tournament title, also secured the Big South's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Coastal Carolina, the Big South regular-season champion, will now represent the conference in the National Invitation Tournament.
The Missouri Valley Conference also crowned a champion this weekend as the University of Northern Iowa, led by MVC Coach of the Year Ben Jacobson, defeated Wichita State 67-52 in St. Louis, Missouri. #1 seed Northern Iowa (28-4) rolled through the MVC tournament to face #2 seed Wichita (25-9) Sunday, capturing the school's second-consecutive conference title and solidifying its spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers held the Wichita Shockers without a field goal for over 12 second-half minutes during a 25-3 run that ultimately put the game away. Wichita will have to wait until NCAA Tournament selection day to learn its post-season fate.
More drama unfolded in Colonial Athletic Conference action Saturday night in Richmond, Virginia as #2 seed Northeastern (20-11) out-battled #7 seed Hofstra (19-14) 74-71 in a double-overtime thriller and the longest Colonial tournament game since 1999. Northeastern will advance to the Monday semi-final contest following their snapping of Hoftstra's seven-game win streak Also in quarterfinal play, the third-seeded William & Mary Tribe (21-9) topped #11 seed James Madison (13-20) 70-65 Saturday also to move on to semi-final play.
The West Coast Conference Championship in Las Vegas featured fifth-seeded Loyola Marymount (18-14) knocking off fourth-seeded University of San Francisco (12-19) to advance to a semi-final match-up with #2 seed St. Mary's (24-5). Top-seeded Gonzaga (25-5) will face #3 seed University of Portland (21-9) in the other semi-final game this week.
The Big Sky Conference Championship has also been underway out west in Ogden, Utah. Sixth-seeded Portland State (13-18) upset #3 seed Montana State (15-14) 68-65 Saturday night on a three with 3.7 seconds left. The upset allows the two-time defending champion Portland State to attempt to stay alive in the semi-final round against top-seeded Weber State (19-9) this Tuesday, March 9th. Fourth-seeded Montana (20-9) dominated #5 seed Northern Arizona to also advance, where they will meet #2 seed Northern Colorado (24-6) on Tuesday as well.
While some conferences have crowned their champions, others are just tipping-off. Southland Conference Tournament action will begin in Katy, Texas beginning Wednesday March 10th with #7 UT-Arlington facing the defending 2009 regular-season and conference tournament champion in #2 Stephen F. Austin. Wednesday will also feature #6 UT-San Antonio against #3 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, #8 Nicholls State against #1 Sam Houston State and #5 Texas State against #4 Southeastern Louisiana. Semi-Final match-ups are slated for Thursday, with the championship scheduled for Saturday, March 13th in Katy.
Also tipping-off this week is Mid-American Conference Tournament action in Cleveland, Ohio. #9 Ohio will face #8 Ball State, #12 Toledo will battle #5 Buffalo, #10 Bowling Green will meet #7 Western Michigan and #11 Northern Illinois will take on #6 Eastern Michigan in First Round play. Kent State, Central Michigan, Akron and Miami-OH will await their Quarterfinal round opponents as the top four seeds. Quarterfinal and Semi-Final rounds are slated for Thursday and Friday, with the championship planned for Saturday, March 13th in Cleveland.