Raphielle Johnson's Blog
It's been a couple of years since the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament had this much attention. Charlotte, Dayton and Rhode Island all hosted games and needed to move on to Atlantic City in order to maintain their hopes of getting into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large. But while the Rams took care of business by beating Saint Joseph's 87-76 and Dayton beating George Washington 70-60, the 49ers weren't as fortunate, falling to an opponent you have to beat if you're to make a solid case to the selection committee.
Wednesday is the day where the final days before Selection Sunday begin to get ever more hectic. The Big 12 and Conference USA both begin play with four first round matchup, and while the teams set to represent the Big 12 in the NCAA Tournament appear to be set in stone the same can't be said for C-USA. On the "clock" Wednesday is none other than Tulsa, who be playing the tournament in their city even though the Bok Center is not their home floor. Rice is the opening round opponent, a team that they must be to simply retain hope of being a part of the discussion.
Speaking of the reeling Huskies, what will they bring to the table against St. John's?
All the talk leading up to the West Coast Conference final between Gonzaga and Saint Mary's focused on how much the Gaels would need this victory. Anywhere from "they're fine without it" to "they're in trouble with a loss" depending on which bracketologist you happened to be listening to at that particular moment. But at the end of the game at Orleans Arena there was a rather emphatic message from Randy Bennett's team:
Save that bubble talk for someone else.
Northern Iowa became the fifth team to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament, beating Wichita State 67-52 to win their second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference tournament title. Trailing by three at the half, Ben Jacobson's Panthers outscored the Shockers 39-21 in the second half, holding Wichita State to 23.1% shooting in the final twenty minutes. Kwadzo Ahelegbe led the way with 24 points while Jake Koch added 13 off the bench. Koch's performance highlighted a solid effort from the UNI reserves, who helped spark the decisive 23-3 run.
Cornell got things started on Friday night with their third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth and three more guaranteed themselves spots in the Field of 65 on Saturday. In the most anticipated of the three finals it was Murray State picking up their 30th win of the season, dethroning defending Ohio Valley champ Morehead State 62-51 in Nashville. Isaiah Canaan scored 16 points off the bench to lead the way for Billy Kennedy's team, who will represent the OVC in the Big Dance for the first time since 2006.