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Champ Week Live Blog, March 2: This. Is. March.

Sources are telling us that it is indeed still March.

NCAA Basketball: Belmont at Texas Christian Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: 12:40 a.m.

Saturday will be an Arch Madness first. All four teams in the semifinals are from the State of Illinois.

In the final games of the quarterfinal round, Southern Illinois (20-12) defeated Missouri State, 67-63, as five Salukis reached double figures in scoring and shutting down all-league forward Alize Johnson. The 6’9 Johnson scored just six points.

Illinois State (17-14) advanced by edging Indiana State, 77-70. All-conference performer Milik Yarbrough scored 24 points in just 22 minutes of play. ISU’s Big Three of Yarbrough, Keyshawn Evans and Phil Fayne accounted for 57 of the Redbirds’ 77 points. They held Sycamore star Brenton Scott to three points.

SIU and ILS split their season series, as each succeeded on their own home floor.


UPDATE: 11:08 p.m.

Loyola Marymount came roaring back in the Winner-Gets-Gonzaga-Game of the West Coast Conference Tournament.

LMU fell behind early as the 9 seed Portland rained threes and built a 15-point first-half lead. The 8 seed Lions couldn’t match the Pilots’ scoring early, but they relentlessly pounded the ball inside. When Portland’s threes stopped falling, the Lions managed to claw their way all the way back.

And they did it emphatically.

Portland mounted a late second-half comeback behind sophomore guard Josh McSwiggan (16 points, 4-8 from three), but it was too little, too late.

Five Lions scored in double-figures, led by junior guard James Batemon, who had the game-high with 29 points. It was yet another strong performance from an LMU team that turned a corner before entering the home stretch of the season. The Lions have now won five of their last nine games.

Up next for LMU is a date with top seed and seventh-ranked Gonzaga on Saturday at 7 p.m. Pacific on ESPN2.


UPDATE: 10:49 p.m.

Illinois State has fought off foul trouble (four players with two fouls each) and hot shooting by Indiana State guard Jordan Barnes to take a halftime lead in their quarterfinal game with the Sycamores.

What is at stake is an all-Illinois final four in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Bradley, Loyola and Southern Illinois have already qualified for Saturday’s semifinal games.

Milik Yarbrough sat much of the first half with two fouls, but still contributed seven points and three assists. Barnes tallied 14 points, making three treys. The St. Louis native is playing in his home town and has collected a league leading 115 triples this season.


UPDATE: 10:39 p.m.

Down goes the second No. 1 seed in conference tournament play.

UNC Asheville was looking to avenge its only home loss of the season at the hands of Liberty. Yet, the Liberty Flames bounced the top seed, again on their home floor, 69-64. The Bulldogs jumped on the Flames right out the gate, building a 38-26 halftime lead. Raekwon Miller was built for getting buckets, dropping 11 of his 19 points in that stanza.

Liberty wouldn’t go quietly into the sunset, ramping up the defensive intensity and calling upon the big boy. Scottie James dominated the interior with 18 points and 14 rebounds, changing the whole landscape of the game. Then there was the timely three from Lovell Cabill and the dagger from Caleb Homesley to make it a six-point game with just under a minute in regulation.

Liberty will travel to Radford for the battle between two Virginia universities to claim the crown as Big South Champion. Tune in at 1 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN.


UPDATE: 10:10 p.m.

After a wild battle with the 2017 OVC Tournament Champions, the Murray State Racers took down Jacksonville State by a score of 70-63. However, that final score belies just how close Murray State came to losing this game.

Indeed, the Racers led this game 51-31 at one point, only to find themselves facing a 63-62 deficit with under three minutes to play. Nevertheless, Shaq Buchanan and Jonathan Stark both stepped up like the leaders they are, providing the boost the Racers needed to get over the hump.

If Murray State — a one seed — had lost tonight, I probably wouldn’t have been too happy (I hate conference tournaments, remember?)

Now, Murray State has a date with the OVC Championship Game tomorrow evening, where they will face the winner of Austin Peay-Belmont. The Racers are looking to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since winning the 2012 OVC Tournament Title.


UPDATE: 9:46 p.m.

It’s halftime inside the Kimmel Arena and UNC Asheville has a 38-26 lead over Liberty. More importantly, we have a Power Ranger sighting.

The blue ranger (Billy in plain clothes) to be exact. His attempt at basketball curling was short lived as he caught the swift L.


UPDATE: 9:39 p.m.

Did you miss the ending to the UT Arlington vs. Texas State game? Shame on you. UTA led by seven with 43 seconds left when Tre’Larenz Nottingham converted on a four-pout play. Two possessions later, he tied the game, and it appeared that the Mavericks were about to pull off an epic collapse.

Then Kevin Hervey decided not to let that happen.

It’s been a rough season for UTA, relative to expectations, but this is the way to get some momentum heading into the conference tournament. All it takes is a few more wins and the Mavericks will dance.


UPDATE: 9:21 p.m.

I know Iowa State isn’t a mid-major (allegedly) but look at this freaking dunk.


UPDATE: 9:17 p.m.

The first 1 seed of conference tournament play has fallen victim to the upset bug.

The Rider Broncs, who finished the season with a stellar 15-3 record in MAAC play, were taken down by Saint Peter’s, a team which limped into the MAAC Tournament with a meager 13-17 record. They were the conference’s third-worst team.

Now, they’re riding high after the Broncs put on just an abysmal offensive performance (they also missed enough free throws (13) to more than make up the difference in tonight’s game). In the end, the Peacocks won 66-55, providing Cam with fodder for his #EndConferenceTournaments movement. ed. note: Cam speaks in the third person now

Thanks to this win, the field is wide open for Canisius, who also finished 15-3 in MAAC play, to make a run to the NCAA Tournament. Saint Peter’s will take on the winner of Iona-Manhattan, which takes place tomorrow night.


UPDATE: 9:15 p.m.

Southern Illinois shut down Missouri State’s Alize Johnson and defeated the Bears, 67-63. Five of the six games of Arch Madness have been decided by five or fewer points. Five Salukis scored in double figures and MSU’s Johnson did not.

The NBA hopeful only attempted one shot in the entire second half and finished with six points and 11 rebounds. SIU (20-12) heads to the semifinals. Sean Lloyd’s 13 points led the way. Jarrid Rhodes (21 points) and Jarred Dixon (16) led the Bears (18-15).


UPDATE 8:37 p.m.

One half of the Big South Championship game has been filled. 2 seed Radford will be playing for a title Sunday afternoon after defeating Winthrop, 61-52. The grind-out included lockdown defensive efforts that led to two critical scoring droughts at the end of each half. Fortunately, the 2-17 shooting by Radford occurred right before the half as opposed to the 1-14 down the stretch for Winthrop.

It was Travis Fields Jr.'s three-pointer that broke the lid off for the Highlanders at the 3:55 mark in the second stanza, which shifted the momentum in their favor.

For most of the night, the only offense Radford could create was from Freshman of the Year Carlik Jones, who supplied 15 points on 5-13 shooting. It was their defense that was the key factor, scoring 18 points off of 15 turnovers and changing tempo frequently with different defensive sets.

Radford awaits the winner of top-seed UNC Asheville and 5 seed Liberty for Sunday’s 1 p.m. title game.


UPDATE: 5:44 p.m.

Arch Madness delivers every single year, and this year isn’t any different.

Today’s heroics are courtesy of Bradley’s Donte Thomas, who laid the ball in with just over a second left to give the Braves a 63-61 win over Drake. Take a look for yourself:

This season is turning out to be a really good showing from Brian Wardle’s program, and they’ll have a chance to continue that tomorrow against top-seeded Loyola.


Folks, have you had enough March yet? Good, neither have we, and Championship Week is in full swing tonight. If you have plans, cancel them, unless those plans of course involve watching conference tournaments on your couch.

Today’s action got started this afternoon, and the most noteworthy game feature Loyola Chicago surviving a scare from Northern Iowa. The Missouri Valley has a pair of games on the docket tonight, and both games feature competitive matchups.

Elsewhere around the country, the following conferences get their first round of games underway: Horizon League, SoCon and the WCC. There aren’t any heavy hitters in those games, but they’ll be fun nonetheless.

The OVC and Big South both feature semifinal action, while the MAAC moves on with the quarterfinals. Sprinkle in some Ivy League and Atlantic 10 games here and there, and you have a recipe for a successful Friday Night.

We have writers on site at almost all of these tournaments, so they’ll be popping in periodically as always to provide updates. All you have to do is kick back, relax and enjoy the games.

Happy Friday friends. Let’s basketball.