Around the Mid-Majors: Conference Tournament Play Officially Underway
It’s March, which means we’re nearing the NCAA Tournament, and postseason play has already begun for some. There’s been some early March Madness around the country, so here’s the latest scoop on the mid-majors.
The No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs have finished their season a perfect 24-0. In their last two games, the Zags rolled through Santa Clara 89-75 and Loyola Marymount 86-69. Corey Kispert propelled the Bulldogs in both games, scoring 25 and 24 points.
Gonzaga is the top seed heading into the West Coast Conference tournament and has secured a bye all the way to the semifinals on March 8.
In the American Athletic Conference, Wichita State still sits on top after they upset No. 6 Houston on Feb. 18. The Shockers played their first game since on Wednesday night, topping Tulane 78-70 to reach 14-4. One game remains against South Florida before the AAC tournament begins.
Meanwhile, the Cougars have climbed up to No. 9 in the AP Poll and are on a three-game win streak. In their last game, they demolished South Florida 98-52; junior Quentin Grimes led the way with 22 points. Houston finishes the season on the road against Memphis on Sunday.
Over in the Atlantic 10, St. Bonaventure and VCU both dropped their season finales. However, they do head into the A-10 tournament as the top two teams, and neither will play until the quarterfinals on Friday.
The Bonnies beat George Washington 88-41 but dropped their final game against Dayton 55-52 on Monday night. St. Bonaventure ends the year 13-4 and as the top team in the A-10.
VCU, meanwhile, fell to Davidson on Saturday 65-57 to finish 17-6 on the year. It was a tough day shooting for the Rams; they hit just 36.5% from the field and 21% from deep.
In the Big South, we’re already on to the conference semifinals, and the top seed Winthrop Eagles are soaring. On Monday night, Winthrop defeated a tough High Point team convincingly 83-54. Winthrop will play Longwood on Thursday for a trip to the conference championship.
On the other side, the No. 2 seed Radford faces No. 3 Campbell for the other spot in the Big South Championship game.
No. 20 Loyola Chicago and Drake head to St. Louis as the top two seeds with a bye to the quarterfinals in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
The Ramblers ended the season 21-4 after they swept Southern Illinois. Big man Cameron Krutwig scored 20 points in their 65-58 overtime win over the Salukis. The Ramblers will play the winner of Bradley and Southern Illinois on March 5.
Meanwhile, Drake had its winning streak snapped as the Bulldogs lost their season finale to Bradley 67-61. The Bulldogs will face either Northern Iowa or Southern Illinois in the quarterfinals of the MVC tournament without star Roman Penn, who remains out for the season with a foot injury.
Next up: the Mountain West is crowded at the top heading into the conference tournament, but the only team ranked out of the bunch is No. 19 San Diego State.
The Aztecs have won 11 straight and are coming off a sweep of Boise State. San Diego State finished the year 20-4 after a win over UNLV 71-62 on Wednesday. Guard Jordan Schakel led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds. The No. 19 Aztecs will snag the No. 1 seed going into the MWC tournament.
Finally, in the Ohio Valley Conference, it’s Belmont that had its 21-game win streak snapped. The Bruins dropped their last two regular-season games to Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State.
Belmont did, however, nab the No. 1 seed in the OVC tournament and defeated SIU Edwardsville 78-61 in their quarterfinal matchup. The Bruins will face the winner of Jacksonville State and Murray State on Friday night.
There has been an early March upset coming out of the Horizon League, where Milwaukee defeated No. 2 seed Wright State 94-92 in overtime. The Panthers trailed 72-48 with around six minutes left before they came storming back for one of the wildest comebacks of the season.
Wright State was picked by many to win the conference tournament, but this is just another prime example of March Madness. There should be plenty more to come.
Matt Scalzo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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