Four days until Selection Sunday… with conferences unveiling “double-bye brackets” in their tournaments, in effect play-in games to get to the play-in games.  Despite a pair of one point games at the ACC Tournament, the upper deck in Greensboro was curtained off.  Progress…

 

First to the in-crowd:

Virginia–#1 seed in the East, headed to Charlotte for the first weekend with a round of 64 matchup against the winner of Manhattan and Robert Morris (ESPN) or Montana (CBS).  I can’t wait until they stop referring to the “First Four” as a round unto itself next year when the “Opening Round” takes its place mercifully.

Maryland–#3 seed in the East, headed to Pittsburgh and a matchup with Northeastern (CBS).  Can the 8th ranked team in the nation sneak into one of the #2’s?

Georgetown–CBS has the Hoyas a #4 seed in the South, playing Stephen F. Austin in Seattle while ESPN has Gtown a #6 seed in the East facing Oklahoma State in Pittsburgh.  Stephen F. Austin did beat Sam Houston State to win the Southland Conference;  sadly there’s no Jim Bowie A&M or Davy Crockett Tech.

VCU–CBS sends the Rams to Pittsburgh as the #8 seed in the West Bracket, facing North Carolina State.  ESPN sends Shaka Smart’s team to Omaha as the #10 seed in the East where they will meet Iowa.  Can the Rams turn around a stretch where they’ve dropped 6 of 11?

 

On the Outside Looking In—

American (17-15, 8-10 Patriot League) faces Lafayette this evening in Easton, PA for the Patriot League Championship.  Even if the Eagles come up short, it’s been a nice run.  More on their matchup below…

 

George Washington (20-11, 10-8 Atlantic 10) awaits the winner of today’s A-10 Opening Round matchup of Duquesne and St. Louis:  GW beat the Billikens by 3 at home in January while splitting with the Dukes–and they’re not too far removed from February 11th’s stinker of a 16-point loss.  Revenge is a dish best served cold–and it’s rather cold right now in Brooklyn.

 

Richmond (19-12, 12-6 Atlantic 10) remains the red-haired stepchild in the commonwealth’s capital city.  Aren’t they headed to Brooklyn on a six-game winning streak?  Didn’t they finish ahead of VCU in the standings?  Didn’t they sweep the Rams?  They can beat their crosstown rivals again in the A-10 Quarterfinals Friday—barring a VCU upset.  But enough about the Spiders—can we talk more about Shaka Smart and the Rams havoc?

 

Old Dominion (24-6, 13-5 Conference USA) is listed by ESPN as one of the first four out of the field…meaning the Monarchs need at least to advance to the finals to have any hope of snagging an at-large bid.  Of course, they could eliminate all doubt by winning the tournament.  Coach Jeff Jones’ team has won six straight—and faces the winner of Middle Tennessee and Charlotte Thursday in the first round. They swept the 89’ers while losing to the Blue Raiders on the road during the regular season.  Will Jones grow a mustache ala Blaine Taylor?

 

On the Outside Trying to Look in, only they need binoculars–

George Mason (9-21, 4-14)–  The Patriots need five wins in five days to make a new March miracle happen–and this team has won four games in two months.  More on their matchup with Fordham below… 

Howard (16-15, 10-6 MEAC)– the waiting is the hardest part.  Delaware State won their opening round game Monday–and the two teams won’t tangle until Friday night thanks to the league running its mens and womens tournaments at the same time in the same place.  Hey, a week in Norfolk this time of year is really nice…

Virginia Tech (11-21, 2-16 ACC)– one down, three to go…I was initially concerned when Buzz Williams ditched his jacket early in the first half, the tie would follow and with no vest he’d be down to his t-shirt by halftime.  Thankfully, restraint paid off and the Hokies beat Wake Forest thanks to solid three-point shooting (8-19 from outside the arc) and the ability to limit mistakes (only 4 turnovers).  Onward…

 

 

Bids locked up Tuesday–

Northeast– Robert Morris gets by St Francis (NY) 66-63… denying the Terriers their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.  Along with William & Mary, The Citadel, Army and Northwestern, St. Francis is one of five schools that has been in Division I since 1948 yet to reach the Big Dance.

Horizon– Valparaiso upends Green Bay 54-44…as the Crusaders continue their mini-dynasty with their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years.  The kid who brought Valpo into the limelight–Bryce Drew–is now the school’s head coach.  Not to be confused with his father Homer or brother Scott–each of whom preceded Bryce.  Bush and Clinton families take notice:  this is how you do a family dynasty in the 21st century.

Summit– North Dakota State nips South Dakota State 57-56…I have an Oklahoma fan titled “Sooner Bob” who is quaking right now as the Bison eliminated the Sooners in last year’s round of 64.  Unfortunately without his team in the field Bob became the ultimate wrong-way frontrunner, adopting teams that would lose their next game:  Shocker Bob/Aztec Bob/Wolverine Bob/Badger Bob/Wildcat Bob all met similar fates.

West Coast Conference– #8 Gonzaga beats BYU 91-75…did the Bulldogs make enough of a case to jump back among the #1 seed contenders?  And will this be the year they finally break through the mid-major glass ceiling to reach the Final Four?  Depending on how Arizona fares in the Pac-12, Mark Few’s team could land in Los Angeles for the West Regional–far, far away from Kentucky.  Of course, they have to win two games first–not an easy task recently for this program despite high seeds.

 

On Tap Today–

6:30PM–Atlantic 10 First Round– George Mason faces Fordham– the Patriots lost to the Rams 80-68 in the regular season at home, allowing 50 second half points.  Shevon Thompson tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds but had little help– the rest of the starters shot 9-of-32 and even with the Thompson’s boards Mason was still beaten on the glass by 11.  But the Patriots get a Fordham team that might be minus leading scorer Eric Paschall;  the freshman forward missed the last three regular season games with a high ankle sprain suffered in practice.  Can one begin to dream?

 

730PM–Patriot League Finals– American at Lafayette.  It’s a clash of tempos:  the Leopards rank 2nd in the league at shots per game (55.1) while the Eagles rank dead last in Division I (44.7).  AU swept the season series thanks to a last-second shot by Pee Wee Gardner in Easton and a 20 point effort by Gardner in DC.  Expect major minutes from the starters again–only six players got into Sunday’s game at Colgate and with a few days off it’s not like other Conference Tourneys.  Can the Eagles bigs contain Lafayette’s 6-foot-9 center Dan Trist?  The senior from Sydney scored 25 points in Easton but was held to 12 in DC.

 

9PM–ACC Second Round–Virginia Tech plays Miami.  Let’s get this facade over with:  this game will not start at 9pm–in fact it might be 9:30 before the Hokies and Hurricanes finally tip off (yesterday’s “3pm game” with Wake began at 3:40).  The two teams met last Saturday in Blacksburg, and VT was held to 18 first half points en route to an 82-61 defeat.  While the Canes probably won’t be as devastating (15-25) from three point range…there’s a very good chance the Hokies will revert to the play that saw them lose five of their last seven games by double digits.  Miami is a team squarely on the NCAA Tournament Bubble– both models have coach Jim Larranaga’s team as one of the “first four out”.  They need at least two wins to have any case for getting to the big dance–and a loss to the Hokies would be devastating.  Buzz Williams Perspiration Factor: 6.795.

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