Day two of the Big East Championship features four teams looking to improve their chances of reaching the NCAA tournament, with the biggest game of the day being the first. Nine-seed Connecticut, who opener their tournament with an 81-67 win over DePaul on Tuesday, takes on eight-seed West Virginia with the winner likely locking up a tournament berth. These two teams met once during the regular season, a 64-57 UConn victory at the XL Center on January 9th, and with so much change over the nearly two months since that game there may not be a whole lot to take from it.
When Western Kentucky fired Ken McDonald on January 6th few envisioned the young Hilltoppers earning a bid to the NCAA tournament. But they did just that, beating North Texas 74-70 in the Sun Belt title game.
Sometimes in conference tournaments, especially for one-bid conferences, the winner is the team that's playing the best basketball at that time as opposed to the team that showed itself to be the best throughout the season. But how often does the winning team not only play their best basketball at the right time but also successfully navigates an in-season coaching change? That's exactly what happened for Western Kentucky, who will make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009 as a result of their 74-70 win over North Texas.
While there's plenty of conference tournament action on Tuesday's schedule, and three bids to be distributed, there's also a huge game in the Ivy League as Penn (19-11, 11-2) visits rival Princeton (18-11, 9-4). What's on the line for the Quakers? A share of the Ivy League title with Harvard, which would force a one-game playoff between the two teams at a site to be determined.
VCU jumped out to a big lead in the first half, holding on to beat Drexel for the CAA title.
There was no doubt that a lot was on the line in the CAA tournament final between two-seed VCU and top-seed Drexel, and that goes beyond the title that was at stake. A win would wrap up an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, which in turn would remove the need to worry about whether or not their gaudy win total would be enough to sway the selection committee.
WCC: #1 Saint Mary's vs. #2 Gonzaga, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Missouri Valley - Title Game
#4 Illinois State vs. #2 Creighton, 2:00 p.m. (CBS)
Three teams (Belmont, Murray State and UNC Asheville) punched their tickets to the NCAA tournament on Saturday.
The first three bids to the NCAA tournament were handed out on Saturday, with the game drawing the greatest amount of attention being the OVC title game between Murray State and Tennessee State. The reason: this is the time of the year when bubble teams actively watch the scoreboard in hopes that no unexpected competitors would show up on the landscape. At 29-1 entering the title game it was clear that Steve Prohm's team would be an "unexpected competitor" for an at-large bid and the Racers were going to receive one had they lost to the Tigers.