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Mid-Major Morning Mashups: March 11, 2011

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Some days during championship week we're given answers. Other days we're left with just as much uncertainty as before the opening tip. 

BYU defeated TCU, but it wasn't anything resembling a dominant performance. Can the Cougars continue to operate at optimum levels sans Brandon Davies? We know the answer is very likely a simple no, but at the same time thing's weren't all sufficiently different in regards to production. BYU was +9 in rebounds, went to the post at the same rate it has all season and still scored points in the paint. It was a sluggish first half to be sure, but it wasn't due to the Cougars being forced into playing in a manner not befitting of their personnel. It was, a poor performance that yielded few answers.

In other parts of college basketball land East Carolina's upset of top-seeded UAB in the Conference-USA Tournament answers the question, are the Blazers good enough to win a conference championship, but it doesn't give us what we ultimately want to know. Is this team going dancing? Head coach Mike Davis thinks so - as you'll see momentarily - and an RPI of 28 to go along with a regular season title certainly alludes to a happy Selection Sunday in Birmingham. But yesterday's affair hardly gives a definitive answer one way or the other.

And so we wait.

Dirk Facer of the Deseret News: "Second chances helped send BYU into the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament. The Cougars crashed the boards and came out big in a 64-58 victory over TCU. A 17-2 advantage in second-chance opportunities proved to be more than enough to get the job done. "That's the one thing we talked about at halftime," said forward Noah Hartsock, who grabbed five offensive rebounds. "Our shots weren't falling so we talked about just crashing the offensive boards, getting the second chances for our team, and when we started doing that, it really turned the tide and really helped us out.'"

Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune: "The conclusion of BYU's storied basketball season became clear, even in a victory. Whenever the end comes - and it could be as soon as next Thursday, judging by the Cougars' struggles in a 64-58 win over Texas Christian - Jimmer Fredette and his teammates will be lamenting how they missed shots they usually make. There was a lot of that going around Thursday afternoon in this quarterfinal game of the Mountain West Conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center. With guards Jackson Emery and Fredette shooting a combined 10 of 34 from the field, BYU could not subdue the No. 9-seeded Horned Frogs until the final few seconds. If not for Charles Abouo, the Cougars (29-3) could have lost this game. BYU's believers might find encouragement in the stars' shooting numbers, buying coach Dave Rose's suggestion that managing to win under these circumstances was impressive in its own way. More reasonably, the Cougars will have trouble beating New Mexico in the semifinals unless something changes, and soon. That game, in itself, is not as important as how it affects BYU's confidence going into next week. As of Thursday, the Cougars certainly did not look like a Sweet 16 team. This performance even raised questions about their ability to handle a No. 14 or 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament, an opponent that's likely to be more talented than TCU.

Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union Tribune: "During a timeout in the second half of San Diego State's quarterfinal against Utah in the Mountain West Conference tournament, the mascots from both schools engaged in a one-armed push-up contest at center court. SDSU's Aztec Warrior knocked out one push-up after another while Swoop, Utah's red-tailed hawk, kept up. Monte cranked out a few more. Swoop matched him. Monte dug deep. Swoop dug deeper. Then the timeout ended. It was the only real drama of the evening. The Aztecs won the main event with relative aplomb, leading by as many as 23 en route to a 64-50 decision that was everything that you hope an opening-round game in your conference tournament will be. They broke a sweat, but not a cold sweat."

Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News: "UAB coach Mike Davis isn't just holding out hope the Blazers will still make the NCAA Tournament. He says he'll watch the selection show Sunday as if UAB is in the 68-team field, despite a 75-70 overtime loss to East Carolina in the C-USA Tournament quarterfinals that Davis says he saw coming because of poor practices this week. "It will be a travesty if we're not in the NCAA Tournament," Davis said today. Most national pundits believe the Blazers are essentially done. Davis is hanging his hat on an RPI that was No. 28 entering today and that UAB won the Conference USA regular-season title outright. "If you do a blind resume, 10 out of 10 people would pick us," Davis said. "Unfortunately, they don't have blind resumes. They know who they're picking.'"

Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "University of Memphis coach Josh Pastner attributed the win to his players' willingness to make sacrifices. He was referring to junior guard Charles Carmouche's insistence on guarding Southern Miss senior forward Gary Flowers, an All-Conference USA first-team selection who outweighed Carmouche by nearly 30 pounds. He singled out junior forward Wesley Witherspoon, whom Pastner had asked before Thursday's C-USA Tournament quarterfinal at UTEP's Don Haskins Center to be a rebounder and defender instead of looking to score. He praised freshman guard Joe Jackson, who after starting the Tigers' first 27 games, had accepted his role as a reserve and came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points. The result was a 66-63 win over fifth-seeded Southern Miss that put fourth-seeded Memphis within two victories of earning the league's automatic NCAA Tournament berth."

Natalie Meisler of the Denver Post: "Colorado State battled to keep its season alive, with its grittiest player, Adam Nigon, on the bench with a toe injury. CSU hadn't lost a starter to a practice injury all season until Nigon was hurt Wednesday. But, the Rams fell to New Mexico, 67-61, here Thursday afternoon in the Mountain West Conference quarterfinals. It was a mild upset of the No. 5 seed over the No. 4 seed, but CSU limped down the stretch, losing five of its last six. The Rams (19-12) now await a call Sunday from the NIT, its NCAA hopes dashed due to the late-season slump."

Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Stop me if you've heard this one before. Young kid comes into The Q with game galore. Explosiveness, muscles that look like they were cut with a chisel, and so many hops microbreweries are interested in signing him. He is Buffalo's Javon McCrea and he is his league's Freshman of the Year. He puts his team on his back, running, jumping, sending most of what he shoots down the net's nylon funnels. He scores 17 of his team's 25 in the first half and scores 28 of its 62 in the game. And his team? Well, his team loses to the Mid-American Conference men's basketball tournament's top seed, Kent State, 73-62. One-man teams lose their last game in Cleveland."

Bill Knight of the El Paso Times: "UTEP came out with a fury this evening, spurred on by a crowd far from a sellout, but far, far from quiet. The Miners, seemingly playing with jets for legs, roared away to a 46-28 halftime lead and then withstood the counter of a very good Marshall team, holding on for a 77-65 win in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Men's Basketball Tournament in the Don Haskins Center. UTEP will now move into the tournament's semifinals today at 2 p.m., going against Tulsa or Rice in hopes of reaching Saturday morning's championship game, in hopes of winning that game and making NCAA Tournament dreams come true. Tonight they took no chances."

Aaron McMann of the Detroit News: "Last week it was Mike Douglas' 25-point plus games against Ball State and Central Michigan that helped Western Michigan clinch the Mid-American Conference West Division. But on Thursday, WMU got double-digit scoring efforts from three others to beat Bowling Green 67-56 at Quicken Loans Arena to advance to the semifinals of the MAC tournament. Former Detroit Pershing star Demetrius Ward scored a team-high 14 points, while forward Flenard Whitfield and center Matt Stainbrook added 12 and 10, respectively, for the Broncos (20-11), who play Akron at 7 p.m. Friday in a MAC semifinal. "We've done our best when we do have balance," said WMU coach Steve Hawkins. "A lot was made of Mikey's (Douglas) week because of all the points he scored, but he made good decisions leading up to it. We try and take whatever they give us.'"