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Champ Week Live Blog, 3/3: THIS IS MARCH

We’re handing out the tournament’s first bid today.

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

UPDATE: 12:14 a.m.

After struggling through the first half, the Zags turned it on in the second and found their rhythm against No. 8 Loyola Marymount. Top seed Gonzaga won 83-69, and will face No. 4 San Francisco in Monday’s semifinal.

Killian Tillie knocked down all five of his three point shots and led Gonzaga with 24 points. Fellow forward Johnathan Williams added 20 points, half of which came on electrifying dunks that sent the heavily-pro-Gonzaga crowd at Orleans Arena into a frenzy.

This is the 21st consecutive victory in a conference tournament opener for Gonzaga. The Zags have now won 15 straight games in this tournament.

- Will Maupin

UPDATE: 10:59 p.m.

Top-seeded and No. 7 Gonzaga is in a battle with 8 seed Loyola Marymount in the West Coast Conference quarterfinals. The Zags scored just 29 points in the first half and lead by a single point.

Loyola Marymount played exceptional defense over the first 20 minutes and has been getting a hand on the ball on seemingly every Gonzaga possession. The Lions have forced 10 turnovers, but even when they’re not taking the ball, they’re altering shots and disrupting sets.

The Zags are shooting just 44 percent from the field in this game, well below their season average of 50.1 percent. Tune into ESPN2 to catch the second half.

- Will Maupin

UPDATE: 10:19 p.m.

Down goes another 1 seed. Cleveland State, which came into the game 10-22 overall and 6-12 in the Horizon League, knocked off top-seeded Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League quarterfinals, 89-80.

Tyree Applebee, who led the eight-seeded Vikings with 24 points, hit the dagger — a long three with 1:13 to go to put Cleveland State up by eight.

The Norse led by five at the half, but wilted down the stretch amid a Cleveland State run. Drew McDonald led NKU with 24 in the losing effort.

Northern Kentucky is now the third 1 seed to lose in a conference tournament — Rider and UNC Asheville also lost theirs. Even weirder, this is the third year in a row that the top seed in the Horizon League tournament failed to win a game.

UPDATE: 9:20 p.m.

Middle Tennessee may be heading into the CUSA Tournament without a number next to its name.

The No. 24 Blue Raiders dropped a home game to Marshall this evening, 76-67. The Thundering Herd had a three-point halftime lead ahead of a back-and-forth second half, where neither team could get real separation until Marshall went ahead by eight points with 2:25 minutes left.

MT appeared to have stolen the ball down five with just under 30 seconds left as it made a last ditch comeback effort. But a jump ball was called keeping possession with Marshall, and Kermit Davis was hit with a crucial technical arguing for a foul during the scrum.

John Elmore (23 points) sunk the ensuing free throws, effectively ending the game. The charity stripe was the theme of the night, as it helped Marshall (22-27) and doomed the Blue Raiders (13-26).

The Thundering Herd have been the thorn in MT’s side during its historic season, handing the Blue Raiders their only two conference losses. In both games, MT was held well below its season average shooting the ball.

The Blue Raiders clearly remain the CUSA Tournament favorite, as it would be shortsighted to forget their demolition of Western Kentucky last Thursday. But watch out if a third game with Marshall materializes, even if the team isn’t dependent on winning out to get a bid like it has been in recent years.

But the real winner? Dan D’Antoni’s upstart t-shirt maker.

- Greg Mitchell

UPDATE: 9:16 p.m.

Six-seeded Fairfield upset No. 3 Niagara 90-77 in a wire-to-wire MAAC semifinal win. We live in a world where the five, six, seven and nine-seed teams meet in the semifinals of the Metro Atlantic tournament. I’m sure my colleague Cam Newton would have fits over this development, but this tournament has been tremendous content.

So how did the Stags pull off this upset? Look no further than Tyler Nelson’s statline. The senior sharpshooter scored 27 points on 50 percent shooting, bringing his average to 27.5 ppg on 51.4 percent through two games of this tournament. This isn’t surprising for those who follow the MAAC, much less read a certain MAAC season preview last fall, but [extremely Miguel voice] I’m not gonna say I told you so.

Fairfield will play No. 7 Quinnipiac, who is two wins away from its first NCAA Tournament appearance. More likely than not, it’ll be yet another bizarre chapter in this wacky tournament.

- Kyle Cajero

UPDATE: 9:02 p.m.

In Game 1 of the CAA Tournament, No. 8 Drexel came back from a double-digit deficit to beat No. 9 James Madison, 70-62. With JMU swarming Drexel’s Tramaine Isabell, who is second in the league in scoring, Austin Williams stepped up with a monster line of 10 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks.

The Dukes rode the hot shooting of freshman point guard Matt Lewis to a 46-36 lead five minutes into the second half, and then went ice cold. They made just two of their next 23 field goal attempts, including an 0-15 stretch over 10 minutes. Drexel clawed back with Isabell heating up to score 20 of his 24 points in the second half. The Dragons will play No. 1 Charleston tomorrow at noon.

In Game 2, No. 7 Delaware held off No. 10 Elon, 86-79. Ryan Daly and Eric Carter paced the Blue Hens with a combined 43 points. The Phoenix, who were picked to finish third in the conference, couldn’t hit the reset button in the postseason and instead finish the year on a seven-game losing streak.

Delaware’s zone really stifled Elon’s offensive attack. The Phoenix were all too willing to settle for threes, but hit just 10 of 36 attempts for the game. Delaware shot 57 percent on the other end, and poured in 44 points in the paint. The Blue Hens will play No. 2 Northeastern Sunday night at 6 p.m.

- Tommy Glasgow

UPDATE: 8:53

The first half of the OVC Tournament Title Game has simply been a brutal offensive showing for both teams.

After Murray State jumped out to an early lead, a 15-2 run by Belmont took the Bruins into the half with a 32-29 advantage.

For a while, it seemed as if neither team could find any sort of clear rhythm. However, the Racers’ offense was particularly atrocious. Just take a look at these numbers:


Neither Terrell Miller nor Jonathan Stark can find themselves thus far, which is, um, bad. It goes without saying that the Racers need the OVC Player of the Year to actually play like one in the biggest game of the season. If they can’t turn a corner in the second half, Belmont will cruise to the Big Dance.

-Cam Newton

UPDATE: 8:46 p.m.

Now this is how you end regulation.

The 5 seed Pacific Tigers led for the majority of the game, but 4 seed San Francisco picked up momentum down the stretch. Frankie Ferrari initially put the Dons ahead, then it was Pacific’s Anthony Townes whose layup SOMEHOW fell at the buzzer to tie it.

Despite that wild sequence, the Dons were able to roll their momentum into overtime and pull out the one-point victory.

San Francisco advances to Monday’s semifinal and will face the winner of tonight’s game between top-seeded Gonzaga and 8 seed Loyola Marymount.

- Will Maupin

UPDATE: 8:23 p.m.

Readers of this site are well aware of Cam’s fandom of Rick Byrd, the Belmont coach who has often be the subject of some of this site’s...most unique(?) stories. Ed. note: Cam continues to refer to himself in the third person and compliment himself. I respect it.

Well, tonight, Rick Byrd, a true fashion genius, is battling for an OVC Tournament title. And he’s doing it all with the help of his trusty red sweater vest.

God help Murray State.

-Cam Newton

UPDATE: 8:11 p.m.

The nightmare is over for Chicago State.

After 24-straight losses, the Cougars caught themselves a ray of sunshine by getting a 14-point home win over UMKC this evening. It was CSU’s first Div. I win of the season, and first victory since before Thanksgiving.

Credit to Tracy Dildy, who has kept the Cougars engaged and roughly competitive, especially over the past couple of weeks. After a 61-point second half at Seattle on Feb. 10, CSU hasn’t lost a game by more than 11 points, and while that may seem generous as a piece of optimism, it’s been a nice sign for the program.

It was a good senior night for guards Glen Burns (19 points) and Montana Byrd (19 points), and forward Deionte Simmons (20 points). The win also came against a Roos team that had been surging of late, winning four of their last five games.

UPDATE: 7:15 p.m.

Here at Mid-Major Madness, we love us some bucket-getters. So when Weber State’s Jerrick Harding scored 46 today, we had to take notice.

The Wildcats beat Montana State 95-92 in overtime, with Harding scoring nine in the extra session. Overall, he did his work on 13-26 shooting and made 17 of his 20 free throw attempts.

Harding’s performance was a school record and drew praise from one of Weber State’s prominent alumni.

UPDATE: 6:31 p.m.

The 3 seed BYU Cougars are on to the WCC semis after a tough win over 6 seed San Diego.

It was an entertaining game, marred by 51 total fouls, that featured six ties and 11 lead changes. With 3:28 to play, after nearly letting the Cougars run away with it, San Diego tied things up at 71 on an Olin Carter three point. That capped a 12-0 Toreros run. Over the final three-plus minutes, the Cougars never managed to extend their lead beyond two possessions.

And when leading scorer Elijah Bryant (27 points) fouled out with 2:07 to play, it looked like the Cougars could miss out on the semis for the first time since 2013. But then TJ Haws took over… until he too fouled out. Even then, the Cougars still had Yoeli Childs (22 points) on the floor and he’s really good.

With the 85-79 win the Cougars keep both their NCAA and NIT hopes alive. They’ll face the winner of tonight’s game between 2 seed Saint Mary’s and 10 seed Pepperdine on Monday.

UPDATE: 2:17 p.m.

LIU Brooklyn punched its ticket to the NEC title game on Saturday with a thrilling 78-77 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. After the game, head coach Derek Kellogg, guard Joel Hernandez, and forward Raiquan Clark spoke to the media.

The Blackbirds now await the winner of Robert Morris and Wagner for the NEC Championship on Tuesday night. If it’s Robert Morris, LIU will host. If it’s Wagner, the game will take place on Staten Island.

UPDATE: 1:58 p.m.

We are primarily a mid-major basketball blog. That doesn’t mean we can’t shine some light on dominant performances when we see them.

The best (or worst) performance of the day came from a D-III women’s basketball game between Becker College and Amherst College. The final score was 61-12 as Amherst improved to 28-0. Check out Becker’s box score:

Let’s break this down a bit:

  • Becker had 10 times as many turnovers (30) as they had field goals made (3)
  • They didn’t score a single point in the fourth quarter
  • They didn’t make a single three
  • They even struggled from the the line!

Not great!

By the end of the day, the first ticket to the NCAA Tournament will be punched.

The Ohio Valley Championship will feature a matchup between the top two seeds: Murray State and Belmont. Not only is it a battle for the right to go to the NCAA Tournament, but it’s also a battle over Cam’s heart. Belmont won their lone matchup earlier this season, but Kenpom likes Murray State by just a point in this one. Should be fun.

In other conference tournament news, we’ll have semifinals from the Missouri Valley and the NEC. A fun fact about Arch Madness is that all of the remaining teams are from Illinois: Loyola, Bradley, Southern Illinois and Illinois State. Neat!

There’s quarterfinal action in the Horizon League, SoCon, WCC and MAAC, while the America East, CAA and Summit League all start their tournaments today. In total, there’s 10 mid-major tournaments that have action today (or 11 if you consider the Big Ten a mid-major, which we do).

On top of that, we’ll have 10 other leagues finishing up their regular season. It’s going to be a busy day.

Also, it is highly recommended that you check out Chris Dobbertean’s site, Blogging the Bracket. There’s a conference tournament hub that is a lifesaver this time of year.

We’ll be back throughout the day with updates on what should be a wild day of basketball.