Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hail the Champions: Conference Titles Up for Grabs

A number of conferences wrapped up their tournaments on Saturday with more to come on Sunday. One thing's for sure: take nothing for granted. Upsets were the norm in the Big East, ACC and SEC.

Here are recaps of Saturday's key games and how they will affect the NCAA field.

Memphis 77 Tulsa 51
As expected, the Tigers swamped Tulsa and added the tournament title to their regular season conquest of Conference USA. The only question remaining is whether any teams other than Memphis will be invited to the big dance. Tulsa seems the only decent choice, but Memphis alone would make sense.

North Carolina 68 Virginia Tech 66
The Hokies have made their case for the big tourney, coming within a hair of upsetting the #1 Tar Heels. Carolina moves on to the finals on Sunday against Clemson.

Clemson 78 Duke 74
Not so shocking, Duke was vulnerable away from Cameron Indoor Arena. A tight game throughout, the Tigers made their case to the tournament committee, no matter what happens against North Carolina.

Wisconsin 65 Michigan St. 63
The Badgers took care of business to reach the finals on Sunday. If they beat Illinois, they will add the Big Ten Tournament title to their regular season trophy.

Illinois 56 Minnesota 50
The Illini got the best matchup they could ask for and took advantage, with a chance to play into the NCAA tourney with a win over Wisconsin Sunday in the finals.

Pittsburgh 74 Georgetown 65
Pittsburgh came all the way back from late-season woes and swept through the Big East field with wins over Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and last night, Georgetown. They are the real deal and should get a #2 or #3 seeding.

Texas 77 Oklahoma 49
Ho-hum. Texas and Kansas are the only Big 12 teams that belong.

Texas A&M 71 Kansas 77
See above comment.

Stanford 64 UCLA 67
The PAC-10 was almost as boring as the Big 12. The top four seeds ended up in the semi, and #1 UCLA topped #2 Stanford. Nothing to see here. USC and Washington St. will join these two in the NCAA field. UCLA will be the #1 seed in the West.

BYU 61 UNLV 76
This was somewhat of a shocker and nice to see, but it does create problems for the tournament selection committee. BYU won the Mountain West, and they're 27-7 overall, so expect both the Runnin' Rebels and Cougars in the tournament.

Temple 69 St. Joseph's 64
Another championship won by an underdog creates more questions for the selection committee. Xavier won the Atlantic-10 regular season, and they're no doubt about getting an at-large berth. Temple receives the automatic and St. Joseph's, 9-7 in the regular season, should be considered, as they've beaten Xavier twice in the last two weeks.

Arkansas 92 Tennessee 91
Arkansas pulled off the biggest upset of the day, cementing their credentials for the NCAAs, but Georgia, winning twice in the same day, really deserves a bid.

Georgia 60 Kentucky 56
The Bulldogs, 4-12 during the regular SEC season, topped the Wildcats to advance to the semifinals. Because of the storms that ripped up the Georgia Dome, this game was canceled Friday night and played Saturday afternoon.

Georgia 64 Mississippi St. 60
Just hours after beating Kentucky, Georgia's kids took out the SEC West champions in the semifinal of the SEC tournament. They move onto the finals against Arkansas. Oddly enough, the Razorbacks are one of the four teams that Georgia beat during the regular season, winning 82-69, back on January 19.

The Bulldogs finally evened their full season record at 16-16 with the win. If they do capture the SEC crown, they'll surely have the worst record of any team entered in the NCAA tourney, but the best story of how they got there.

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