With the Patriot League tournament complete, there are now 12 teams which have qualified for automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, leaving 20 more to be determined by conference tournament championships, and then 32 at-large bids will be awarded on Sunday, March 15, along with four teams designated as "play-ins" for four games slated for Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17 and 18.
Those play-in teams are matched against seeded squads, making the total of 68 teams selected to take part in the annual March Madness ritual.
While many post-season tourneys are in early rounds, they will all be completed by Sunday aftenoon, the Big Ten and SEC among those closing out at the last minute. Tonight featured just one tournament final - the Patriot League - and there won't be another until Saturday, March 14, when a slew of 15 conferences will be decided. That includes the Ivy League, which normally is among the first of the conferences to announce a champion, but, because of a tie in the regular season standings between Yale and Harvard, and the fact that the Ivy doesn't hold a post-season tournament, a one-game playoff is scheduled on the 14th.
Saturday will be a huge day of college hoops action, including the finals of the Big 12, Big East, Big Sky, Conference USA, WAC and ACC.
Lafayette 65 American 63 - Two teams that weren't supposed to be in the Patriot League final decided which would represent the conference in the NCAA tournament. Lafayette finished 9-9 in league play, tied for fourth place, while American went 8-10 in conference play, finishing in a three-way tie for sixth place.
After a slow start, Lafayette took a first half lead and held a comfortable lead most of the way, until the Eagles began to surge midway through the second half, closing the gap and eventually grabbing a lead at 55-53 on Marko Vasic's three-point play with 5:14 remaining. That turned out to be the only second half lead for the Eagles as Seth Hinrichs and Zach Rufer hit back-to-back three-pointers for the Leopards.
American closed to within a point, at 61-60, but Nick Linder, who led all scorers with 25 points, scored four straight points on a layup and a pair of free throws. Pee Wee Gardner's three-pointer at the buzzer closed the gap back to two, but it was too late.
Lafayette heads to the tournament with a respectable record of 20-12.
Player of the day honors go to Anthony "Cat" Barber who tallied a career-high 34 points to lead North Carolina State to an 81-70 victory over Pitt in their opening game of the ACC tournament.
Barber hit nine of 13 shots from the field, including four of five from three-point range, and nailed all 12 of his free throws. Barber also dished out five assists and gathered in three rebounds.
The win improved the Wolfpack's overall record to 20-12 and puts them in a good position to capture a at-large bid on selection Sunday. NC State went 10-8 through the ACC regular season, including a quality win over Duke, one of just three ACC teams to top the Blue Devils.
Conference Championship Scoreboard
|Date/Conf. Champ.||Champion (record, defeated, final score)|
|Ohio Valley||Belmont (22-10, Murray State, 88-87)|
|Big South||Coastal Carolina (24-9, Winthop, 81-70)|
|Missouri Valley||Northern Iowa (29-3, Illinois, St., 69-60)|
|Atlantic Sun||North Florida (23-11, USC Upstate, 63-57)|
|Colonial||Northeastern (23-11, William & Mary, 73-61)|
|Metro Atlantic||Manhattan (19-13, Iona, 79-69)|
|Southern||Wofford (28-6, Furman, 67-64)|
|Horizon||Valparaiso (28-5, Green Bay, 54-44)|
|Northeast||Robert Morris (19-14, St. Francis BRK, 66-63)|
|Summit League||N. Dakota St. (23-9, S. Dakota St., 57-56)|
|West Coast||Gonzaga (33-2, BYU, 91-75)|
|Patriot League||Lafayette (20-12, American, 65-63)|