In quite possibly the craziest conference tournament ever, the number one-seeded Cleveland State Vikings came out victorious, clinching their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2009. That year they beat four-seeded Wake Forest in the first round. The only other time they made it to the tournament, they advanced to the second weekend.
Is that a sign of more wins to come for the Horizon League Tournament champions?
In the short term, outside of a quick start by Oakland, the game was all Vikings. The Golden Grizzlies came out of the gates on a 10-5 run, but a 13-2 run to end the first half gave CSU a 40-28 lead at the break.
Cleveland State would lead by double-digits for most of the final period and win by a score of 80-69. As the final buzzer sounded, the Vikings celebrated and joined at mid-court, as they’ve been doing throughout the season.
Speaking of unity, as a unit the Vikings shot 51.4 percent from the field on Tuesday night. Tre Gomillion and Torrey Patton both went off in the spotlight, each grabbing a double-double. The 23 point and 10 rebound night was Patton’s third double-double in as many tournament games. Gomillion picked up his second of the tournament with 16 points and 13 rebounds. His other was in a 54-minute performance against Purdue Fort Wayne.
Now, 54 minutes you ask. Yes, the Horizon League quarterfinals were the craziest round of basketball known to man.
In the least exciting game of the night, Oakland would beat Youngstown State in Overtime, 87-83. Before that, Northern Kentucky would win a battle against Detroit Mercy with a tip-in at the buzzer, 70-69.
March 3, 2021
Now you must be saying, “that’s pretty crazy, surely that’s it!” Well there’s more. Milwaukee overcame a 24-point deficit against two-seeded Wright State with 6:26 remaining. Yes, 6:26. They would ultimately win in overtime, 94-92, possibly ending the greatest player in Wright State’s history, Loudon Love’s, career.
In the wackiest game of the tournament, Cleveland State eked by Purdue Fort Wayne in triple overtime, 108-104. Everything possible happened in this game, including Al Eichelberger, who was a 0-2 from three on the season hit a game-tying three to force a second overtime.
Algevon Eichelberger hits the game tying 3 for Cleveland State with 4 seconds left in 2OT and sends their game with PFW to 3OT pic.twitter.com/nlqrxOFF3l— NCAA Buzzer Beaters & Game Winners (@NCAABuzzerBters) March 3, 2021
If every tournament was like this, cardiologist appointments would be almost impossible come March.
The Vikings (19-7, 16-4, 151 KenPom) now await their seed. It all depends on what happens throughout the week, but they could be seeded anywhere from a 13 to a 15.
For the first time since 1996, the Drexel Dragons are going dancing. They upset a higher seed back then, can they do it again?
Tuesday’s game was a battle throughout, as they ultimately beat Elon, 63-56, denying the Phoenix of their first-ever tournament bid.
The first half was back-and-forth, but the Dragons ultimately held onto a 32-27 lead at the break.
During the second half, the Dragons lead would grow. At the 6:34 mark, one of the three ‘baby-faced assassins’, Mate Okros, hit one of his four three-pointers on the day to give the Dragons their first double-digit lead of the game at 54-34.
The Phoenix would cut the Drexel lead down to four, but never any more, as the Dragons clinched their first tournament bid in a quarter century.
Stellar three-point shooting and rebounding helped the Dragons out on Tuesday night as they shot 58.8 percent from behind the arc and outrebounded the Phoenix by 13.
This was not the title game or champion that anyone expected though, as upsets were littered throughout the bracket.
In the quarterfinals, some questionable officiating allowed eight-seeded Elon to overcome a 15-point deficit over one-seed and host, James Madison. Postgame, their fans ran to social media to rant, a lot calling for a change of leagues.
Mark Byington: "Saying And-one is a technical?"— Shane Mettlen (@Shane_DNRSports) March 7, 2021
Official: "It is today."
Real quotes. https://t.co/WIhluP8lWD
After that, Elon would go on to upset last year's CAA Tournament champion, Hofstra, in dominant fashion, 76-58.
The other team to pull off a pair of upsets was their matchup in the finals, and champion, Drexel. Drexel led three-seed Charleston throughout the quarterfinals, then dominating the class of the league, Northeastern, in the semifinals.
Drexel (12-7, 4-5, 146 KenPom) now awaits its seed. Most projections have them between a 14-16, but as with Cleveland State, who knows with this wacky postseason.