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Conference Tourney Wrap Up: 3/1

Thursday was the first day of March and the first official day of ESPN's Championship Week (and a half), but it was probably the last "boring" day of Conference Tournament time (as if such a thing exists).

Still, Thursday had its fair share of moments; the first real notable upset, the opening round of "Arch Madness" in the Missouri Valley, and other hot mid-major on mid-major action from a total of five leagues.

If you're thinking about flipping out and just not showing up for work and/or not acknowledging your family for about three weeks, then tomorrow is a good day to start because there are MVC games on Fox Sports Midwest (get the DirecTV college sports package right before you flip out) all day beginning at 1. Then for your evening pleasure, ESPNU will broadcast what should be two highly competetive OVC semifinals from Nashville.

Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.

Thursday recap:

Big South

In arguably the most aesthetically pleasing game of Championship Week thus far, sixth-seeded VMI shocked No. 2 High Point 91-81 in the first of two Big South semifinals from the Winthrop Coliseum that were broadcast on ESPNU.

The highest scoring team in the country was led by the leading scorer in the country as Reggie Williams scored 28 points to help give the Keydets a shot at their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1977.

The two teams set a tournament record with 27 3-pointers and 69 attempts from behind the arc. High Point set a team record by making 15 3-pointers. Eugene Harris matched the individual record for 3s by shooting 7 of 14 behind the arc.

That's the good news for VMI, the bad news is that awaiting them in Saturday's final is the behemoth of the Big South, Winthrop...and they're playing on their home floor.

The top-seeded Eagles pounded UNC Asheville 79-60 to earn a place in the championship game of a tournament they've won six times in eight seasons. They led just 40-37 with  17 minutes to play, but went on a 21-5 over the next eight minutes that put the contest out of doubt.

Winthrop has won 17 straight and 22 in a row on their home floor.

Tip-off between the Keydets and Eagles is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday with the game being shown on ESPN2.

By the way the play-by-play man on the U tonight said that the Big East deserved, and was going to get, no more than "four or five teams" into the tournament. The statement was made after the color guy went on a rampage about how you can't convince him that this Winthrop team isn't better than the middle-of-the pack teams in the BEast. I won't go into any more detail, but suffice it to say that the phrase "Northeast media bias" was thrown around.

Now I love Winthrop as much as the next guy, and agree that they should be in the tournament even if they lose Saturday (these morons seem to think that they're not a lock for an at-large if they get nipped by the Keydets), but these guys went way too far to try and sound like ear to the grindstone, underground college hoops lovers, and ended up sounding like a pair of know-nothing jackasses.

So you can look forward to that Saturday afternoon.

Atlantic Sun

Campbell joined in on the six beating three trend by bouncing Jacksonville 90-85 in overtime in the only Atlantic Sun quarterfinal that didn't make you want to kill yourself.

The Camels became the third three seed to out a six, by outscoring the Dolphins (yes, we had Camels vs. Dolphins on Thursday) 12-7 in the extra five minutes.

Jonathan Rodriguez scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Campbell while Jake Wohlfeil added 11 points and Kyle Vejraska 10. Ledell Eackles added a career-high 10 rebounds. I don't know who they are either, but now when they google themselves they can see that they got some Card Chronicle love; until this sentence.

In one of today's semifinal, the Camels will play second-seeded Belmont which devoured Gardner-Webb 79-61.

The other semifinal will feature top seed East Tennessee State (sans mighty midget Tim Smith) and fourth seeded Lipscomb, which destroyed Stetson (77-61) and Mercer (85-49) respectively.

The first semifinal will tip at 7 with the second slated for 15 minutes after the final horn sounds in ETSU's inevitable win. All games are being played in Johnson City, TN.

Missouri Valley

Arch Madness began in The Lou Thursday, with the same four teams playing in the opening round that have played in the opening round for the last 77 years.

To their credit, they put on quite a show.

Ninth seeded Drake hit 15 three-pointers, including 10-of-13 in the first half, and bounced No. 8 Evansville 101-96 in overtime.

Five different Bulldogs hit eight straight 3-pointers in one stretch in the first-half, but still the Aces trailed just 51-47 at the break.

"That's just basketball in the Missouri Valley Conference," said UE sophomore Jason Holsinger after tying three other players with a tournament record eight 3-pointers himself.

Evansville senior Matt Webster scored a game-high 29 points, but missed a pair of free-throws with the game tied and just five seconds remaining in regulation.

"I don't know what to say," said Webster, breaking down despite his 29-point effort. "I'm a senior leader. I'm supposed to step up and hit them, but I missed. I just missed and let my team down."

The back-breaker in overtime came from the hands of Drake's Klayton Korver who buried a three from the right corner with 45 seconds remaining that broke a 96-96 tie. Korver hit a 3 on the same play, from the same spot on the floor, with 27 seconds to play that was the crushing blow in the Bulldogs' 82-79 victory over Evansville on Feb. 21.

Drake's reward is top seed and No. 11 Southern Illinois at noon today.

In the other opening round game, Indiana State freshman Marcio Stinson hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to lift the Sycamores past Illinois State 68-65.

The win snapped a six-game losing for ISU, which will now play Creighton in tonight's  last MVC quarterfinal.

Friday's other two quarterfinals will pit No. 4 Bradley (20-11) against No. 5 Northern Iowa (18-12), and No. 3 Missouri State (21-9) against No. 6 Wichita State (17-13). As mentioned earlier, all four games can be seen on Fox Sports Midwest.

If you have the access and time, then sit your ass down and get fat/fatter because this will be better than anything else "society" has to offer on a Friday afternoon or night.

Northeast

The school with the name that you can't stop saying when your high (what?) lived to play another day as the Quinnipiac Bobcats edged No. 6 Fairleigh Dickinson (How Dickinson are they?) 78-77 to reach the Northeast Conference Tournament semifinals.

Van Crafton's two free-throws with 5.9 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.

The third-seeded Bobcats will now take on two seed Sacred Heart, which embarrassed Wagner 100-68.

I know it's not their fault, but I just have a hard time taking any men's sports team from any type of Sacred Heart seriously after growing up in Louisville. Ben Wallace could get traded to Sacred Heart and I'd still make a Crystal Kelly joke.

On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded Central Connecticut State (Which was the first team to clinch a regular season conference championship this season. Use that at the water cooler today.) breezed by St. Francis 79-61 and will take on fifth seeded Mount St. Mary's in Sunday's other semifinal. The Mount pounded Robert Morris 78-61 , to gain a small bit of revenge over the team that upset them in this tournament a year ago.

Both semifinal games will be played at the higher seeds on Sunday, with the championship scheduled for Wednesday night.

Southern

The three top seeds advanced in Thursday's quarterfinal action in the SoCon Tournament at the North Charleston Coliseum.

No. 1 seed Davidson, owning a sparkling 26-4 record, overcame a sluggish first-half to outlast No. 8 Chattanooga 78-68.

The Wildcats, the tournment's defending champions, have won 11 straight and are seeking their fourth tournament championship in the past 10 seasons. But for a while, Davidson looked in danger of flopping the way it did two years ago, entering as the favorite yet falling before the final.

Chattanooga led 49-48 with 11:39 to play, but the Wildcats' Jason Richards responded with a trey that started a 25-14 run.

The Mocs had played in four straight SoCon Tournament finals.

Davidson will get Furman, Fuhrman, German, it's a racist name, in Friday's first semifinal. The fifth seeded Paladins topped UNC Greensboro 73-71.

Bobby Cremins moved one step closer to making a return to the Big Dance by leading his College of Charleston (or COC for our sixth-grade readers) squad to a 77-66 win over Georgia Southern on Thursday.

It was the Cougars first tournament victory since 2004 and marked the latest milestone in Cremins' revival project.

"I'm still on this crazy, magical ride," Cremins said.

A ride that began in July when Cremins took over in Charleston and had to rush just to get things squared away when the school year started.

There were breakdowns and a horrible 3-6 start that quickly threatened the season. Gradually, Cremins' and his players found their way, a path that could take them all the way to the NCAA tournament.

That path will have to grow through the Southern Conference's second choice and BracketBuster legends Appalachian State, who torched Western Carolina 78-59.

Exciting point guard D.J. Thompson led the Mountaineers with 15 points, but he was the only starter to hit double figures.

Today's first semifinal between Davidson and Furman will start at 6 and will be followed by the Charleston/App. State tussle. No word on whether or not these games are on TV but God damnit they should be.

The winners of tomorrow's games will meet Saturday at 6 with an automatic bid on the line.