Don’t you just love conference tournament season? The day tipped off at (checks watch) noon ET with USC Upstate and Winthrop and didn’t end until near 2 a.m. the next day with Wyoming and Nevada. Save for Chicago State’s COVID-19 postponement, there was no break in the action.
Starting from the top, USC Upstate got completely thrashed 106-76 by Winthrop. The Big South saw a very chalky day at the Dedmon Center, as UNC Asheville fell to Gardner-Webb and Radford defended their home court over Charleston Southern. Poor Longwood had a Rutgers 2016-ian performance against Hampton, scoring just 14 points in the first half. Hampton was only a one-point underdog in this “upset”, but the Lancers were extremely disappointing.
The Mountain West’s early slate saw No. 5 San Diego State come back from a first-half deficit to beat Air Force. The Aztecs have been looking more vulnerable of late, but they still took care of business. Boise State took down UNLV and Utah State survived a tough test from New Mexico.
I’ve really buried the lede here, so it’s time to talk about the two No. 2 seeds and one No. 3 seed that lost on Thursday: American, North Florida and Nevada. The Ospreys’ defeat was most assuredly worse. Despite being favored by 12 against a Lipscomb team it defeated last week, North Florida was just unable to put the Bisons away. An Andrew Fleming layup with four seconds left proved to be the difference.
Lipscomb upsets North Florida!— Heat Check CBB (@HeatCheckCBB) March 6, 2020
Liberty will take on Lipscomb in the A-Sun title game. pic.twitter.com/pK7lHVnJwW
Meanwhile, American was completely outplayed by Bucknell. The Bison (not the Bisons, that’s Lipscomb) thoroughly dominated the game and snuffed out a late Eagles comeback. I know Bucknell has been here many times, but they were having a down year and American really wasted a legitimate shot at making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.
No. 2 seed American goes down to Bucknell, which means Sa'eed Nelson -- the school's all-time leading scorer and the third-leading scorer in Patriot League history -- ends his career without a single conference tournament win. March can be cruel. https://t.co/A6pch2jR0X— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) March 6, 2020
That leaves the path wide open for the No. 1 seeds in the ASUN and Patriot League. Liberty was tested by the Stetson Hatters, but the Flames pulled away late and continued to annoy all of MMM’s staff (ugh). Colgate crushed Lehigh 83-70 and will play No. 5 seed Lafayette in the semifinal.
Finally, we get to Wyoming, which have a somewhat bison-tangential nickname. Despite going 7-23 in the regular season, they have now pulled off back-to-back upsets in the conference tournament. In a wild game that involved a double-digit comeback and an interview with Cowboy Ken: The Barrel Man...
...the ‘Pokes won 74-71 after a late surge. By the way, Wyoming went on a key 20-7 run after the Cowboy Ken interview. We should not be shocked by its efficacy.
Wyoming won 2 Mountain West games all season. They came into the MWC Tournament with a record of 7-23.— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) March 6, 2020
Now they're in the semifinals after pulling off two monumental upsets.@wyo_mbb Coach Allen Edwards was understandably emotional postgame. pic.twitter.com/Hhuq604CyQ
In the Horizon League, UIC and Green Bay both defended home court and advanced. Wait, that’s not exactly true, because UIC was playing in Loyola Chicago’s Gentile Arena. Why were they playing in Gentile Arena? Were they trying to get closer to the Catholic faith? Uh, actually, UIC was hosting the Midwest Regional Robotics Competition, so they booted out the men’s basketball team. Fantastic content! This is March!
In the two West Coast Conference openers, No. 8 seed Loyola Marymount and No. 7 seed Santa Clara both advanced without too much trouble.