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Conference Tournament preview, March 5: Big South kicks off wall-to-wall basketball

Meanwhile, the ASUN is the first conference to determine its championship game today.

Longwood v George Washington Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

It’s the first real day of wall-to-wall basketball, and we have everything from semifinals to first round matchups.

The day begins with the Big South Quarterfinals in Radford, Virginia and ends with the Mountain West Quarterfinals in Las Vegas.

We have potential #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament on the line (San Diego State) and 24.3 PPG scorer Jermaine Marrow in action.

Here’s everything you need to know about Thursday’s action. All times Eastern.

Atlantic Sun

The Atlantic Sun will be the first league to set up its finals. All games are on the campus site of the higher seed, and each game can be watched on ESPN+.

  • No. 3 Lipscomb at No. 2 North Florida, UNF Arena, 7 p.m.
  • No. 4 Stetson at No. 1 Liberty, Vines Center, 7 p.m.

Everyone thinks UNF and Liberty have a cakewalk to the finals, but both have had troubles with their opponents on Thursday.

Lipscomb beat North Florida in late January 85-73. Ahsan Asadullah had 23 points and 18 rebounds in that game. On Tuesday in the quarterfinals against FGCU, he scored 40 points and picked up 14 rebounds. Liberty, meanwhile, let NJIT hang around.

Big South

The quarterfinals take place at Radford University. All four games are on ESPN+.

  • No. 7 USC Upstate vs. No. 2 Winthrop, noon
  • No. 6 UNC Asheville vs. No. 3 Gardner-Webb, 2:30 p.m.
  • No. 8 Charleston Southern at No. 1 Radford, 6:00 p.m.
  • No. 5 Hampton vs. No. 4 Longwood, 8:30 p.m.

Winthrop opens up the shindig against a USC Upstate team who’s won two in a row. Only problem is that Winthrop beat USC Upstate by a combined 34 points.

In game two, UNC Asheville faces Gardner Webb. Since their best player Jose Perez left, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have won six of eight.

In game three, the hosts Radford play a Charleston Southern squad who just beat Presbyterian by 17 points. However, Radford’s Carlik Jones won Big South Player of the Year earlier this week, and should be able to combat Charleston Southern’s guards.

Horizon League

This years quarterfinals are at campus sites. Thursday’s winners will face #1 Wright State or #2 Northern Kentucky in Indianapolis on Monday. Both games are on ESPN+.

  • No. 6 Oakland at No. 3 Green Bay, 8:00 p.m.
  • No. 5 Youngstown State at No. 4 UIC, 8:00 p.m.

These four Horizon League squads will face off on Thursday night for the privilege of going to Indianapolis for the tournament semifinals.

Oakland has won six of seven, Green Bay has won four of five. In that run, Oakland beat Green Bay at the O’Rena in double overtime, 92-88.

A couple hours west, UIC hosts Youngstown State. The Flames have won four of five and the Penguins have lost four of six. Both road teams won the matchups during the season. Youngstown’s Naz Bohannon had double-doubles in each.

Missouri Valley

All games are on either Fox Sports Midwest, CSN Chicago + or ESPN+.

  • No. 9 Illinois State vs. No. 8 Drake, 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 10 Evansville vs .No. 7 Valparaiso, 9:30 p.m.

Evansville looks to get its first Missouri Valley win of the year on Thursday night. Yes, that Evansville. The one who beat Kentucky. The Aces went 0-18 in MVC play due to injuries and head coach Walter McCarty’s dismissal.

The Aces face Valparaiso to tip off their bleak NCAA Tournament chances. The Crusaders struggled with the Purple Aces in both matchups, only beating them by two in both games.

In the opener for Arch Madness, Illinois State will face Drake. Drake didn’t have a bad conference season at all, but since the middle of the MVC is so jam-packed, the Bulldogs got pulled into this game.

Mountain West

The Mountain West is full of teams that would love to be bid-stealers. These games take place at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center, and will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.

  • No. 9 Air Force vs. No. 1 San Diego State, 2:30 p.m.
  • No. 5 Boise State at No.4 UNLV, 5:00 p.m.
  • No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 2 Utah State, 9:00 p.m.
  • No. 11 Wyoming vs. No. 3 Nevada, 11:30 p.m.

San Diego State is the clear favorite in this league. They finished the regular season 28-1 and are currently in the hunt for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The other seven teams would love to put a stop to those talks.

Air Force gave SDSU a good battle in their only matchup this season. The Falcons ultimately ended up losing by 15, but they were in it for three quarters of the game.

In game number two, Boise State faces off against host UNLV. Both teams won their home matchups in 2020 by a decent amount. RJ Williams had double doubles in both those for Boise State, but it might be hard to overcome the Rebel-favoring crowd.

To begin the late action, #7 New Mexico faces off against #2 Utah State. The Lobos ended the regular season with a two-point victory over the Aggies. New Mexico will hope to continue their hot ways, but this game is humongous one for USU’s bubble chances. Lose, and the Aggies will head to the NIT.

Late at night, Wednesday’s Cinderella Wyoming plays Nevada. The Wolf Pack have won six of seven, and have one of the better mid-major starting fives in the country. Jazz Johnson and Jalen Harris are both averaging more than 15 PPG. They’re by far the best backcourt in the Mountain West today.

Ohio Valley Conference

All games will take place in Evansville, Indiana and streamed on ESPN+.

  • No. 5 Tennessee State vs. No. 4 Eastern Kentucky, 7:30 p.m.
  • No. 6 Eastern Illinois vs. No. 3 Austin Peay, 10:00 p.m.

These four teams are a combined 45-9 at home and 19-42 on the road. Two of them will have to get out of their comfort zones to win tonight.

In the regular season, Eastern Kentucky beat Tennessee State in both games. The Colonels were one of three teams to beat the Tigers at home, thanks to Jomaru Brown’s 37 points.

Terry Taylor and the Austin Peay Governors face Josiah Wallace. It should be back and forth between those two as the first two games were decided by three and four points.

Patriot League

Tune into Stadium and the Patriot League Network. The higher seeds host.

  • No. 8 Lehigh at No. 1 Colgate, 7 p.m.
  • No. 5 Lafayette at No. 4 Army, 7 p.m.
  • No. 6 Navy at No. 3 Boston U, 7 p.m.
  • No. 7 Bucknell at No. 2 American, 7 p.m.

The Patriot League is Colgate’s to lose at the moment. With Loyola’s loss on Tuesday against Lehigh, the Raiders don’t have any real bad matchups lined up.

American might be the toughest challenge. The Eagles have a tough matchup on hand for Thursday against the Bucknell Bison, who the Eagles lost to by four in on the road and only beat by one at home. In that one-point victory, Bucknell kept Sa’eed Nelson to 10 points. If they can do that again, there could be another upset in the Patriot League.

The 3-6 game is as even as one can be. BU did beat Navy in Annapolis, but Navy usually plays all its games close.

In the 4/5 game, it’s honestly not that even. Army has beaten Lafayette by 17 and 20 points this season. Matt Wilson scored 20+ in both games.


Last year, Pepperdine made a run as the #7 seed. Can any of these teams do it this year? Tune into BYUTV, Spectrum SportsNet, CSN Bay Area, Root Sports, AT&T Sports or the WCC Network to catch the action in Vegas.

  • No. 9 San Diego vs. No. 8 Loyola Marymount, 9:00 p.m.
  • No. 10 Portland vs. No. 7 Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.

The top of the WCC is fun to talk about, but the bottom isn’t.

There is one reason to tune in to the first game: Eli Scott. The junior was a teammates of the Ball brothers at Chino Hills. He averages 15.4 PPG.

In the other game, Portland plays Santa Clara, a team that beat the Pilots by 24 in Portland. The Pilots went 1-15 in WCC play.