Entering Tuesday’s hectic conference championship schedule, five more bids were up for grabs. There were seven automatic bids coming into the day. Now, the NCAA Tournament has 12 NCAA Tournament teams in position to have one shining moment. By the time the games were over, college basketball didn’t have any bid-stealers, but there were some upsets in the championship games.
Overall, three No. 1 seeds took home their conference championship. A No. 2 seed also sealed a deal with a conference championship. The lowest seed to win a conference championship on Tuesday night was LIU-Brooklyn.
Wright State Raiders (25-9, 14-4) Horizon League
The Wright State Raiders didn’t let the Cleveland State Vikings have another upset in the Horizon League. After the Raiders earned the No. 2 seed, they certainly thought they might have another date with the Northern Kentucky Norse. However, the Horizon’s best team lost in the quarterfinals. The No. 3 seed also lost in the quarterfinals. Then, the Vikings upset the No. 4 seed Oakland Grizzlies. Meaning, the 74-57 win over the Vikings was not at all expected when the conference tournament started. However, the Raiders have not participated in the NCAA Tournament since the 2007 season, so they’ll take it anyway they can get it.
College of Charleston Cougars (26-7, 14-4) Colonial Athletic
A 13-point halftime deficit to the Northeastern Huskies could not prevent the College of Charleston Cougars from winning the Colonial Athletic. After the slow start, the Cougars quickly got back into the game in the second half. Although they trailed by 17 points, the Cougars sent the game into overtime behind a tremendous defensive effort. They had a final shot to win it in regulation but the ball caromed off the rim. Instead, the Cougars had to wait until the overtime session to get their first lead of the game. Great foul shooting put the game away for an 83-76 win. This is Cougars’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999.
LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds (18-16, 10-8) Northeast Conference
So much for having the home crowd in the championship game. The LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds dominated the Wagner Seahawks early and jumped out to a 34-18 halftime lead in front of the hostile crowd. They did enough to fend off the Seahawks in the second half, knocking out the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Conference. Joel Hernandez led the Blackbirds with 32 points in the 71-61 win. Certainly, the Blackbirds are going to play in the First Four in Dayton. That means they should be a 16-seed.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (30-4, 17-1) West Coast Conference
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were not going to be denied from winning their sixth straight automatic bid. For the first 18 minutes of the game, the BYU Cougars played tough and it seemed like this might be a game for the ages. Instead, the Bulldogs pushed the lead to nine points at halftime. Then, they exploded in the second half for a 74-54 win in the conference championship game. Killian Tillie paced the Bulldogs with 22 points after another scintillating night from 3-point range. The Bulldogs will enter the NCAA Tournament with a 14-game winning streak.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits (28-6, 13-1) Summit League
For the third year in a row, the the South Dakota Jackrabbits earned the Automatic Bid out of the Summit League. They defeated the South Dakota Coyotes in the rubber match. David Jenkins Jr. scored 29 points in the victory. This will be the Jackrabbits’ fifth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012. They have yet to win a tournament game but the third time could be the charm for Mike Daum and company.
Automatic Bids Earned
1. Murray State Racers (26-5, 16-2) Ohio Valley Conference
2. Radford Highlanders (22-12, 12-6) Big South Conference
3. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (28-5, 15-3) Missouri Valley Conference
4. Lipscomb Bisons (23-9, 10-4) Atlantic Sun Conference
5. Michigan Wolverines (28-7, 13-5) Big Ten Conference
6. Iona Gaels (20-13, 11-7) Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
7. UNC-Greensboro Spartans (27-7, 17-3) Southern Conference
8. Wright State Raiders (25-9, 14-4) Horizon League
9. LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds (18-16, 10-8) Northeast Conference
10. College of Charleston Cougars ( 26-7, 14-4) Colonial Athletic
11. Gonzaga Bulldogs (30-4, 17-1) West Coast Conference
12. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (28-6, 13-1) Summit League