Sunday, March 4, 2018

4-MAR Bracket Projections: The L Words

The Futility list will reduce by at least one.  Lipscomb built up a massive lead with a gigantic first half effort scoring sixty points, but needed every last bit of distance to withstand the pressuring Florida Gulf Coast attack.  Lipscomb became a member of Division I in 1999, and with the 108-96 (in regulation!) win over Dunk City, the Bison earn their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. 

It’s only a trip to the semifinals for now, but when you’re 0-79 you get to celebrate all the steps along the way.  William & Mary gets past Towson 80-66 and take on the top seed College of Charleston tomorrow night.

Fort Wayne fell in the Summit quarterfinals and Quinnipiac was eliminated in the MAAC semifinals.  Fifteen programs are still alive and hoping to join Lipscomb.  

Loyola only manged five more points than Lipscomb scored in the first half, but it was enough to earn the Missouri Valley Championship over Illinois State.  The Ramblers picked up a 65-49 win over the Redbirds to earn their first trip to the brackets since 1985.

On the flip side Furman will see their drought hit 38 years after falling to East Tennessee State in the Southern Conference semifinals.  As mentioned above, Towson and Illinois State both lost and ensure they will remain on the Drought list for at least another year.  Drexel and Hofstra also failed to qualify for the CAA semifinals and will see another year of no NCAA tournament.  IUPUI was eliminated from the Horizon.  

Conference Tournaments
As I mentioned yesterday, we’re scaling down prior to the second week explosion of conference tournaments.  We have just eight leagues in action tomorrow which is the lowest number until Selection Sunday.  We have two championship games on the schedule, as well as two new leagues beginning play.

The Southern Conference is one of those two championship games.  Top seed UNC Greensboro has made it to the finals and are looking for their first NCAA trip since 2001.  They will take on East Tennessee State who won this tournament last year.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic finals will feature a familiar face in Iona.  Their opponent though is chasing some history.  Fairfield comes in as the six seed, and has missed the last 20 NCAA tournaments.  

The WCC semifinals are tomorrow.  It may just be an exercise of two perfunctory games to setup Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s part III.  However, if San Francisco can manage to pull off the upset over the Zags, it will mean a chance for their first NCAA trip since 1998. 

The Horizon semifinals are tomorrow and are nearly as unpredictable as the MAAC brackets.  Fourth seeded Oakland will take on eighth seeded Cleveland State in the first semifinal.  Second seed Wright State is the top seed still standing, and they draw sixth seeded Milwaukee in the second game. 

The Colonial semifinals will have William & Mary just two wins from their ultimate goal, and they now get the top seed College of Charleston.  The Cougars haven't seen their name in the NCAA Tournaments since 1999.  UNC Wilmington and Northeastern have made trips to the dance in just the last few years, but will be awaiting the Cougars/Tribe winner.

The Summit semifinals will feature two schools still battling for their first ever trip to the NCAAs.  South Dakota and Denver will square off in a semifinal matchup, guaranteeing a berth in the championship and 40 minutes in between them and Selection Sunday.  South Dakota State and North Dakota State comprise the other half of the bracket.

As for the new leagues, the MAC begins with first round games at campus sites on Monday.  Bowling Green will travel to Mt. Pleasant for a road game with Central Michigan.  The Falcons have not made the NCAA tournament in 49 years, which is currently the ninth longest drought in NCAA Division I.  Central meanwhile has not been since the Chris Kaman days of 2003.  Northern Illinois will be in Kent, and they are looking for a return trip to the brackets for the first time since 1996.

The MEAC begins with an aperitif on Monday, with two of the five first round games.  Maryland Eastern Shore has never made the NCAA tournament, and are hoping the 37th year is the breakthrough.  They will measure up against Norfolk State in the final game of the day for the conference. 

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 2-3 tonight, 0-0 from pending games previous night, 83-52 overall, 0 game pending from tonight)
Monday's top five as I see them:
#5 San Francisco vs Gonzaga- Gonzaga 76, San Francisco 67
#4 North Dakota State vs South Dakota State- South Dakota State 77, North Dakota State 74
#3 Hofstra vs Northeastern- Northeastern 75, Hofstra 73
#2 BYU vs Saint Mary’s- Saint Mary’s 71, BYU 68
#1 East Tennessee State vs UNC Greensboro- East Tennessee State 69, UNC Greensboro 68

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