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Conference tournament recap: CAA, WCC, Summit and Horizon leagues crown champions

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Also: 2 SNACKS 2 FURIOUS

Saint Mary’s v Gonzaga Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

We now have a dozen bids.

The NEC, CAA, Summit League, Horizon League and WCC all crowned their champions on Tuesday night — and all of the tournament champions were either 1 or 2 seeds.

But the biggest shock of the day came before all of those tickets were punched: The Ivy League cancelled its tournament and awarded its auto-bid to regular-season champion Yale amidst COVID-19 concerns. This was the first domino to fall, as the MAC, America East and Big West all amended their conference tournaments in some way, shape or form throughout the day for precautionary measures.

Here is a brief rundown of the games that did happen on Tuesday.


WCC Championship

#1 Gonzaga 84, #3 Saint Mary’s 66

Of course, it came down to the Bulldogs and the Gaels. The WCC’s two flagship programs duked it out for the 11th time in the past 20 seasons on Tuesday night. And, like Gonzaga has done for eight of those meetings, the Bulldogs rolled.

The Gaels hung with Gonzaga in the first half thanks to getting their first 34 points from Malik Fitts and Jordan Ford. The former was on fire: After scoring only 20 points in the previous two games, Fitts started 4-5 from the field, made his first four threes and grabbed four rebounds. Then Ford, who came in with 60 points in the past two games, jumped out to 20 first-half points. Another epic performance from Ford seemed imminent.

But in a sign of things to come, Gonzaga freshman forward Drew Timme rattled off six straight points to end the half, stymieing Saint Mary’s undersized backcourt of Dan Fotu, Kyle Bowen and Jock Perry. The Bulldogs led 42-41 at half.

It was close until it wasn’t. The Bulldogs started the second half on a tear while the Gaels missed their first four shots. Gonzaga’s lead ballooned to 10 at 56-46, then the No. 2 team in the country pulled away with back-to-back threes from Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert. Trailing 64-52 with 10:40 left, the 3 seeded Gaels had a 3.5% chance of victory. It only shrunk from there; Gonzaga cruised for the rest of the way.

Yet unlike most WCC Championship games, the loser will get to play another day. Saint Mary’s and BYU are tournament locks: TourneyCast gives both teams a 100% chance of earning an at-large bid. Want further proof? Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said it himself in the postgame press conference.

“We beat a really good team,” Few said of Saint Mary’s. “A team that’s going to make the NCAA Tournament and make a lot of noise.”

Three-bid WCC is back, baby. It’s good again.

BracketMatrix has the Bulldogs as the third 1 seed, whereas BYU is a 5 seed and Saint Mary’s is an 8.

NEC Championship

#1 Robert Morris 77, #2 St. Francis (PA) 67r

Robert Morris is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.

Led by NEC Tournament MVP Dante Treacy’s 18 points and five assists, the Colonials trailed for only 30 seconds in the 1-versus-2 matchup. St. Francis (PA), which beat the Colonials by 15 in the teams’ first matchup of the season, shot a dismal 3-17 from beyond the arc and lost the rebounding battle 35-30.

Yet the second-most exciting thing about the game was that one lucky Robert Morris fan nailed a half-court shot to win free Chik-Fil-A for a year:

Robert Morris is projected to be a 16 seed, per BracketMatrix.

CAA Championship

#1 Hofstra, 70, #6 Northeastern 61

Welcome back to the dance, Hofstra. The Pride punched their ticket to its first NCAA Tournament since 2001 with double-figure outings from upperclassmen Desure Buie, Eli Pemberton and Jalen Ray — the latter of whom hit several threes to take the lead with six minutes to go.

Then Buie, a senior who ended up winning the CAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, carried the Pride home with back-to-back jumpers:

The Pride are projected to be a 14 seed, which sounds a bit generous for a team that’s played no Quad. 1 games this season. However, Hofstra does have Quad. 2 road wins over UCLA and Northeastern.

Horizon League Championship

#4 North Dakota State 89, #6 North Dakota 53

Despite losing head coach John Brannon to Cincinnati and two of last year’s starters to graduation, the Northern Kentucky Norse held off an experienced UIC backcourt to win its third Horizon League title in four years.

Led by junior Jalen Tate’s 14 points, four of Northern Kentucky’s five starters finished in double-figures. It was a well-rounded effort for NKU, which went on a 12-2 run to take the lead early, then put the clamps down on UIC’s offense to seal the deal:

Unlike last season, the Norse are projected to be a 16 seed. But BracketMatrix has them on the cusp of a 15 seed, and plenty of conference tournaments remain.

Summit League Championship

#1 North Dakota State 89, #6 North Dakota 53

Meanwhile in the Summit League, defending champion North Dakota State had a margin of victory that would make Gonzaga blush. Led by Vinnie Shahid’s 25 points and Tyson Ward’s 23 point, 12 rebound double-double, the Bison exacted revenge on the Fighting Hawks, which beat NDSU 71-68 at home less than a month ago.

On second thought, “exacted revenge” would be putting it lightly. North Dakota State kicked off the game on a 13-0 run.

And then they went supernova.

The Bison are projected to be a 15 seed, per BracketMatrix — an improvement over last year.

SWAC Tournament Quarterfinals

#1 Prairie View A&M 82, #8 Alabama A&M 60
#2 Texas Southern 75, #7 Grambling State, 62
#3 Southern 67, #6 Alabama State 53
#4 Jackson State 69, #5 Alcorn State 52

The SWAC started with an all-chalk day that featured precisely zero close games. The conference needed a hero to save a ho-hum day.

He delivered.

2 SNACKS 2 FURIOUS!

That’s right. Jackson State manager Thomas “Snacks” Lee, who went viral for making an NBA-range three on senior night, checked in late in the Tigers’ win over Alcorn State. The Braves knew Snacks had infinite range, so they double-teamed him the moment he checked in.

Alcorn State head coach Montez Robinson gave a very candid answer about that decision to the Clarion Ledger afterwards:

”We weren’t going to be a social-media thing,” Robinson said. “We take this game serious. It’s not about no fun and games with us.
“I eat and sleep on this thing. I’m out there competing. These guys are out there competing. These guys are out there competing. We weren’t finna make this a laughing matter, and a joking thing about this. Naw, it’s not about that. If he was going to get out there, we were going to defend him just like we would anybody else.”

Even though the Braves wanted no part in being “a social media thing,” the rest of the SWAC has gone all-in on its viral sensation. Here’s Jackson State’s postgame press conference setup:

And here is the commemorative Snacks poster Jackson State gave to fans for the SWAC Tournament:

Next lies a real David versus Goliath matchup: Snackson State plays top-seeded Prairie View A&M in the semifinals. The Panthers have beaten the Tigers by an average of 12.5 points in the last two meetings.

MEAC Tournament First Round

#10 Howard 70, #7 South Carolina State 63
#8 Delaware State 68, #9 Maryland Eastern Shore, 64

That’s right. For the first time all season, 4-28 Howard has a win streak.

The 350th team on KenPom led South Carolina State 39-38 before going on a 17-3 run midway through the second half. Four-year starter Charles Williams was far from ready to end his career; he led the Bison with 24 points.

America East Semifinals

#3 Hartford 89, #2 Stony Brook 76,
#1 Vermont 61, #4 UMBC 73,

Hartford, your time is now.

In a disappointing year for the Never Made the Tournament Club — in which Grand Canyon overpromised and underdelivered, the Summit League’s top two teams went down and the NMTC members were still shut out, plus founding member William & Mary’s flameout against fellow NMTC member Elon — the Hartford Hawks have almost reached the peak.

The last and biggest step for John Gallagher and his “neighborhood” is dethroning the Vermont Catamounts, whose seniors have made it to the NCAA Tournament twice in their careers.

MAAC Championship First Round Quarterfinals

#9 Manhattan 61, #8 Fairfield 43
#7 Iona 72, #10 Canisius 62
#6 Niagara 56, #11 Marist 54

In the MAAC’s lone close game, the Niagara Purple Eagles and the Marist Red Foxes traded the lead 21 times before Marcus Hammond slipped a pass between what seemed like the entire Marist defense to find Raheem Solomon for the game-winning layup: