Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Trio from the WCC?

With unlikely wins over both St. Mary's and then Gonzaga - in the West Coast Conference tournament final - the San Diego Toreros earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and sent the college basketball world officially into the Madness that is March.

The Toreros finished third in the WCC regular season, but came through in the tourney to better the top two finishers. Both Gonzaga (13-1 conference, 25-7 overall), which won the WCC regular season, and St. Mary's (12-2, 25-6) have the credentials to receive at-large bids, but both will have to sweat it out until Selection Sunday, March 16.

Other teams, from other conferences will be sweating along with them. With only 34 at-large bids available after the champions of 31 conferences get automatic bids, a handful of teams from major conferences find themselves on the proverbial "bubble" for tourney bids.

If the WCC sends all three, which seems likely, that leaves only 32 at-large bids to go around.

At the moment, the teams in the most precarious positions are Pittsburgh, Villanova and Syracuse in the Big East; Virginia Tech, Miami and Maryland in the ACC; Oklahoma and Texas A&M in the Big 12; Creighton and Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference; Arizona State and Oregon in the PAC-10; and Arkansas in the SEC. Florida, last year's national champion, was likely eliminated with their regular season finale loss at Kentucky.

Of the majors, the Big East and PAC-10 tournaments open on Wednesday, while the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten tourneys tip on Thursday.

The first to fall will probably be either Villanova or Syracuse, who face off at noon Eastern on Wednesday.

#12 Butler 70 Cleveland St. 55
The Butler Bulldogs earned an NCAA automatic bid Tuesday night by capturing the Horizon League title with a win over stubborn Cleveland State in the tournament final. In addition to banging home key three-pointers late in the game, the Bulldogs repeatedly stepped to the foul line and converted, hitting 24 of 32 free throws, while the Vikings of Cleveland State tried only 19 freebies, hitting 13 of them.

Butler's Mike Green led the scoring parade with 24 points, including converting 11-of-13 from the foul line.

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