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Mid-Major Morning Mashups: March 13, 2011

Good morning and welcome to the day of all days. The NFL has the draft, Major League Baseball has Opening Day, college basketball has Selection Sunday. The madness officially begins later today as we will all be glued to our televisions as the field of 68 is unveiled, simultaneously fulfilling dreams and dashing hopes. It's invigorating.

Several more programs ensured themselves of a relaxed afternoon after winning their respective conference championship games. San Diego State, Utah State, Boston University, Memphis, Hampton, Texas-San Antonio, Princeton, Akron, Alabama State, and UC Santa Barbara all punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament while the losers (save for BYU) now must deal with the disappointment of missing out on a chance to perform on their games highest stage, or endure a day of sitting on the edge.

Of our conferences only one champion remains to be crowned, that will happen in a matter of hours in the Atlantic City where either Richmond or Dayton will be crowned Atlantic-10 champ. For the Flyers it's win or settle for the NIT. The Spiders are in better shape and may have clinched an at-large berth by defeating Temple in the semifinals, but a victory would leave no doubt.

Follow along after the jump for more than 2,000 words and video to recap a loaded Championship Week Saturday. 

Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union Tribune: "San Diego State didn't cut down the nets Saturday after slaying BYU and Jimmer Fredette in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament to avenge its only losses of the season. The Aztecs cut down the net. Singular. As soon as Coach Steve Fisher had snipped down the final strands of the nylon and twirled it over his head, the hundreds of jubilant fans who had stormed the floor following the emphatic 72-54 victory went in one direction and the Aztecs players went in another. The fans rushed to the other basket. The Aztecs went to the locker room, showered and boarded a bus for San Diego. "We're going to have more nets to cut down this season," center Brian Carlwell explained. "We don't need to cut them all down now."

Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune: "After one of the most magical and glorious nights in BYU basketball's recent history, the Cougars didn't have anything of the sort left Saturday, falling hard 72-54 to San Diego State in the MWC tournament championship game. It was as ugly as the final score indicates. The Cougars trailed by as many as 23 points in the second half, made a good run to cut the deficit to 10, but couldn't get over the hump. Fittingly, perhaps, a couple of putback baskets by Kawhi Leonard and Billy White ended the Cougar uprising. The Aztecs scored 21 second-chance points and outscored the Cougars 40-16 in the paint. Combine that with BYU's woeful shooting from the field -- 19 of 59 -- and you have the recipe for a blowout."

Michael C. Lewis of the Salt Lake Tribune: "One of the biggest questions in men's college basketball will be answered with the unveiling of the field for the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. How far will the Brigham Young Cougars drop? Once viewed as a potential No. 1 seed, the Cougs don't figure to enjoy a spot quite that high after losing both center Brandon Davies to a controversial honor code violation and the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament. The 30-4 Cougars lost to San Diego State 72-54 on Saturday, in a title game that many analysts figured would determine which team received a No. 2 seed. Having lost for the second time in five games since Davies was thrown off the team, the Cougars could land as low as a No. 4 seed - which would put them on track to meet a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16. BYU coach Dave Rose's message to members of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee on Saturday was don't judge us just by this loss. Rose, not prone to lobbying much in the past, said a team should not be evaluated based on one game on the third night of a conference tournament. "This team has been all over the country, found ways to win games, competed extremely well in the fourth-ranked RPI [league] in the country, has a regular-season co-championship, has 30 wins, has an RPI in the top 10. I think these players have earned the right to play on [with a high tournament seed]," Rose said."

Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "He stepped up the ladder, scissors in his hand, smile on his face, the weight of the universe off his slim shoulders. "JOE! JOE! JOE!" yelled the cluster of Memphis fans, trying to muster a cheer as large as the moment. Joe Jackson cut the last cord and held the net up high. He may or may not be the "King of Memphis," but he spearheaded a triumph that will go down in history. Grandparents will tell their grandchildren about this one. It will be become part of the lore of the city. These were the Tigers who did what nobody thought could be done. These were the Tigers who did something that no Tigers had done before. They won their way into the NCAA Tournament by winning a conference championship. They did it in the most improbable way, storming back from 12 points down with just over six minutes left to defeat UTEP, 67-66.

John O'Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "A few minutes remained in a game that featured 10 lead changes and seven ties. Chris Mooney called for the University of Richmond's most dependable play. The Spiders' coach required neither a grease board nor a timeout. "Kevin! Kevin!" Mooney shouted at Kevin Anderson, who was running along the baseline. Mooney waved for Anderson to go get the ball at the top of the key. The 6-foot senior then did what he has through four seasons as a starter: manufacture a scoring opportunity. That sequence illustrated third-seeded Richmond's primary offensive advantage in its 58-54 win over second-seeded Temple in the Atlantic 10 Conference semifinals Saturday before 8,285 at Boardwalk Hall."

Doug Harris of the Dayton Daily News: "Having a chance to reach the Atlantic 10 title game might have been motivation enough, but University of Dayton coach Brian Gregory warned his team on Saturday not to take a blasé approach to Saint Joseph's because of its 11-21 record. He also made sure they knew their emotionally draining upset of Xavier the day before wouldn't be an acceptable excuse for playing with a lack of passion. "Obviously, that was a concern," Gregory said. "But right off the bat, I said, ‘Hey, one of the four hottest teams in the Atlantic 10 is St. Joe's. We didn't play well against them the first game. We played in a funk the later stages of the first half. They out-rebounded us. And they had just won at George Washington - something we couldn't do.'"

Shawn Harrison of the Herald Journal: "With an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line Saturday night at Orleans Arena, the Aggies went out and seized it. Top-seeded and No. 21 Utah State - 17th in the USA Today/ESPN poll - held off several charges by second-seeded Boise State in the Western Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Championship game. In the end, the Aggies punched their ticket to the Big Dance with a 77-69 win and cut down the nets. Utah State has now matched a school record with 30 wins on the season as it runs its record to 30-3 and has won eight straight."

Elton Alexander of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Zeke Marshall spiked Kent State out and the Akron Zips into the NCAA Tournament early Saturday evening. The 7-foot Akron sophomore center's nine blocked shots, including one in the lane inside the final 10 seconds of overtime, lifted the Zips to a 66-65 triumph over the top-seeded Golden Flashes to win the 2011 Mid-American Conference Tournament in The Q. It capped a see-saw battle before 8,926 fans spoiled by a post-game push and shove between assistant coaches and players from both teams. Big shots were made one after the other, but the clinchers for Akron were a pair of free throws by Brett McKnight with 12.8 seconds in OT, setting the stage for Kent's last gasp. Rod Sherman first drove the lane where Marshall returned to sender. "It was my instincts when he threw that ball up," Marshall said. "It was an adrenaline rush, no way was I going to miss my chance at getting [to the NCAA Tournament]." The ball slammed hard against the floor and Kent guard Carlton Guyton got a final look, but Akron's Steve McNees blocked that attempt, the Zips' 15th block of the game, to send the sixth-seeded Zips dancing."

Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News: "The pump fake by Princeton guard Douglas Davis drew attention from Harvard defenders as he maneuvered for a 15-foot shot on the left wing inside the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Yale's campus Saturday. He then leaned left into his defender, lifting into a short jump shot that went through the net at the buzzer - and gave the Tigers a 63-62 win over Harvard in a one-game playoff and their first NCAA Tournament bid in six seasons. For Princeton, it was a restoration of order. The 26-time Ivy League champs had endured their longest title drought since 1975. In winning, the Tigers extended the wait of Harvard, which has never reached the NCAA Tournament, to at least another year. It was the first season that Harvard had won a part of a regular-season league title."

Staff Report from the Ruston Daily Leader: "Grambling State University went flat offensively in the second half and with it when the Tigers' hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. After leading 28-26 at halftime, the No. 6-seeded Tigers scored only four points in the first eight minutes of the final half and went on to suffer a 65-48 loss to Alabama State University in the championship game of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament. With the victory, the Hornets earned an automatic berth in the NCAA tourney, their second since the 2008-09 season. Grambling had reached the finals after upsetting No. 2-seeded Jackson State 81-75 in overtime during the semifinal round on Friday. That victory was led by the career-high 35 points of senior guard Donald Qualls. But Qualls and his teammates struggled with their shooting against ASU, particularly in the final 20 minutes when the Hornets took control."

Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times: "UC Santa Barbara gets a do-over. The Gauchos are headed back to the NCAA tournament after a 64-56 victory over Long Beach State at Honda Center on Saturday. They were once again handed the Big West Conference tournament trophy after beating the 49ers in the title game for the second consecutive season. Orlando Johnson took home the tournament most-valuable-player trophy to use as a bookend with the one he won last season. One thing, Santa Barbara players claim, was different this season: the future. A year ago, as a No. 15-seeded team, the Gauchos lost to Ohio State, 68-51. "Last year we went into the NCAA tournament just happy to be there," said Johnson, who scored 18 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. "This year, we know what to expect. We'll be ready. We have a chance to win a few games."

Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express: "Scissors poised, UTSA senior Devin Gibson paused for a split second before snipping the last strand of net Saturday at the Merrell Center. Thoughts raced through his mind, about God, his deceased grandmother and all the work he had put in over the previous four seasons. More than anything, however, Gibson just needed to collect himself as reality sunk in. He had finally achieved his ultimate goal - the Roadrunners are heading to their first NCAA tournament since 2004 after beating McNeese State 75-72 in the Southland Conference title game. "It was just like, ‘Wow, it finally happened,'" said Gibson, a four-year starter whose teams had been ousted from the Southland tournament in each of the past three seasons, including the 2009 final."

Tommy Bowman of the Winston-Salem Journal: "The MEAC tournament concluded in Winston-Salem on Saturday, and a hometown coach won a championship. Edward Joyner Jr.'s Hampton Pirates rallied past Morgan State in the second half and held on for a 60-55 victory at Joel Coliseum and their first NCAA tournament berth in five years. It was a special day for Joyner, who is in his second season at the helm of the Pirates. His father, Buck, is the coach at St. Paul's; his uncle, Steve Joyner, is coach at Johnson C. Smith, and his cousin, Steve Joyner Jr., is the women's coach at Winston-Salem State. All celebrated with him. "My whole family was here - my uncle was here, my father was here, my wife and kids were here, and aunts, uncles and cousins, friends," Joyner said. "It meant more to me than anything. "I tell everybody, and I'm not ashamed to say it, I'm historically black college born and bred. So if anybody deserved this, and if there is anything for me to be selfish about, it's that I wanted to take an historically black college to the NCAA tournament. I didn't care what division; it could have been Division 12. I wanted to do it."