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Conference Tourney Wrap Up: 3/4

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It's been a year and I still think Denham Brown's shot is going in.

Colonial Athletic Association

Just when you thought George Mason had officially faded back into mid-major purgatory, the Patriots are back like Umbros and jean jackets (Umm if Umbros and jean jackets aren't back then why does everybody want to take pictures with me at the bars?).

GM pulled its second upset in as many days by blasting No. 2 Old Dominion 79-63 in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament on Sunday.

Folarin Campbell, one of the stars of Mason's improbable Final Four run a year ago, scored 18 points including 7 in a row late in the second half after the Monarchs had made 9 of 12 shots to get back into the game.

Mason's Dre Smith has already set a CAA Tourney record for made three-pointers

The Patriots shot 58% from the field and never trailed.

It's hard to believe George Mason, which upset third seed Hofstra in the quarterfinals and is now looking to win its fourth game in four days, has now officially made it further in this year's CAA Tournament than they did a year ago when they were bounced in the semis.

It's strange when you think about how much psychology really does come into play in sports. I'd watched GM play several times in the regular season, and they played with nowhere near the swagger or intensity that they've played with the last two nights. The Patriots truly look like a team that feels they're the class of the league because of what they did a year ago, and that no one can touch them now that it's March.

"Very much like our first two nights in the tournament, our guys were very, very ready to play physically, mentally and emotionally," Coach Jim Larranaga said. "It makes a huge difference when you can get off to such a good start."

At 24-8 with an RPI of 35, Old Dominion now has to hope that it's done enough to warrant an at-large bid from the selection committee. They probably also have to hope that top seed VCU takes care of Mason tomorrow.

The Monarchs had won 12 straight.

It's spring break on ODU's campus, which senior guard Drew Williamson said is a good thing, for if the players had to sit through classes while waiting for Selection Sunday to arrive, it might be even more painful.

"I already know that it's going to go slow," Williamson said.

Virginia Commonwealth, the regular season league champions, advanced to tonight's championship game by defeating No. 4 Drexel 63-56.

Jesse Pellot-Rosa, who played despite suffering a sprained right arch in Saturday's quarterfinal victory over Georgia State, led VCU with 16 points, 10 coming in the first half after starting point guard Eric Maynor picked up two fouls in the first 3 1/2 minutes and sat out the rest of the half.

"He's a tough character," Rams guard B.A. Walker said of Pellot-Rosa. "I've known him for four years and, especially this time of the season, I knew he'd come to play. I didn't worry about him at all because I know how tough he is. I knew he'd play and play good."

With he win, VCU tied a school-record with 26 wins, and improved their NCAA Tournament resume should they slip tonight.

Drexel now finds itself in the situation the Rams are hoping to avoid. The Dragons' tournament resume consists of a 23-8 overall record, 13 road wins, and big wins at Syracuse, Villanova and Creighton.

"I hope our body of work speaks for itself," Drexcel head coach Bruiser Flint said. "Our SID will do a good job of putting our resume our there. If not, he's fired."

The fact remains that the Dragons finished fourth in the Colonial and were 1-5 against the three teams above them. With this in mind, Flint did what many mid-major coaches who know their team is going to be left out of the dance do: rail against the major conferences.

"They sort of give you a formula for what they want you to do, and I think we did it," he said. "Especially for a mid-major. The high majors, those guys don't go on the road. They get a lot of wins, but they play at home. Then they talk about how tough their conference is. That's what happens."

As for the championship game, it's a rematch of the classic CAA title game in 2004 when Pellot-Rosa, then a freshman, broke a 54-54 tie with a free-throw with less than two seconds remaining and the Rams went dancing.

The two teams have met twice this season with VCU winning by double-digits on both occasions. The Rams won 75-62 at George Mason on Jan. 24, and then beat the Patriots 63-49 at home on Feb. 8.

VCU is 2-2 in CAA finals, having won as the No. 1 seed in 2003 and 1996, its first year in the league. Mason, a charter member of the CAA, has played in seven finals, winning in 1989, 1999 and 2001.

Tip-off for tonight's game is slated for 7 p.m. with either ESPN or ESPN2 doing the broadcast, my guess is they were waiting to see if George Mason made the final, and that since they did the game will be on the Grandaddy.

Missouri Valley

Creighton concluded an extremely impressive run in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament by taking out top seed Southern Illinois 67-61 and claiming the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

In a tournament defined by gritty down to the wire games, the Bluejays breezed, first beating Indiana State 59-38, then taking down three seed Missouri State 75-58, and then capping things off by controlling the No. 11 team in the country from start  to finish.

Creighton was led again by its superstar Nate Funk, who scored 19 points and dished out four assists. Funk, who scored a season-high 33 points in the semifinals against Missouri State, was named tournament MVP.

MVC Player of the Year Jamaal Tatum had 21 points for Southern Illinois, which has won the regular-season title five times in the last six seasons but has won the tournament only once during that span. The loss ended a 13-game winning streak for the Salukis, who landed Tatum and Matt Shaw, who had 11 points, on the all-tournament team.

Creighton, which has won six MVC Tournament champions but never as the top seed, had lost eight streat to Southern Illinois.

With an RPI of four, the Salukis still appear in line to earn at least a four seed in six days when the brackets are released.


Obie Nwadike had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead top seed Central Connecticut State to a 74-68 Northeast Conference Tournament semifinal victory over No. 5 Mount St. Mary's before 3,164 at Detrick Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.

The Blue Devils trailed for much of the game, but Nwadike took over on offense in the last seven minutes, and the CCSU defense held Mount St. Mary's to three field goals over the final 7:47.

Awaiting Central Connecticut in the NEC final is two seed Sacred Heart which handled #3 Quinnipiac (aww) 83-69.

Ryan Litke and Drew Shubik scored 16 points each as the Pioneers advanced to the NEC championship game for the first time in their eight years in the league.

Yeah, but how many did Ormerod have? Every time.

The two will battle for the right to be pounded by a one or two seed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Sun Belt

South Alabama became the first number one seed to bow out in their opener when they fell 63-60 in overtime to ninth seed Middle Tennessee State in a Sun Belt quarterfinal on Sunday.

South Alabama had a chance to tie the game as time ran out when Daon Merritt intentionally missed a free throw with two seconds left, but Carlos Smith's three-point shot came after the buzzer.

Middle Tennessee led virtually the entire second half. But Ernest Little's dunk with 1:16 left tied the game at 53 and neither team could convert on two late possessions.

Top seed South Alabama went down in front of a shocked crowd of zero.

The Blue Raiders will now play No. 5 North Texas which also won in overtime, bouncing fourth seeded Louisiana Monroe 77-71.

The bottom half of the bracket stayed true to form as No. 2 Arkansas State beat New Orleans and Bo McCalebb 81-74, and No. 3 Western Kentucky outlasted No. 6 Florida Atlantic 86-81.

Semifinal action from Lafayette will begin tomorrow night at 7:30 with MTSU and North Texas, and will conclude at approximately 10 with Western and Arkansas State. The championship game will be played at 9 on Tuesday.

America East

Chris Holm had 18 points and 15 rebounds and Mike Trimboli scored 20 Sunday to lift top-seeded Vermont to a 72-63 victory over No. 5 Maryland-Baltimore County and into the Catamounts' fifth straight America East title game.

The Catamounts won three straight titles from 2003-05, and have somewhat quitely won 13 in a row to rack up a 25-6 record.

Vermont will host second seed Albany in Saturday's championship game. The Great Danes defeated No. 3 Boston University 59-48 on Sunday.

Albany lost twice to the Catamounts in the regular season and has never won a game at Vermont's Patrick Gymnasium, going 0-9 all-time on that floor.

Patriot League

Top seed Holy Cross got a scare, but Keith Simmons' twisting layup in the lane with 4.8 seconds remaining lifted the Crusaders to a 55-53 win over American in the Patriot League tournament semifinals yesterday in Worcester, Mass.

Simmons, the Patriot League's most valuable player and leading scorer, finished the game with 11 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds.

Holy Cross' opponent in the championship game is no surprise. Bucknell, which has won an NCAA Tournament game in each of the past two seasons, trounced sixth seed Army 68-47.

The two teams that have dominated the league so completely this decade will hook-up (gross) this Friday at 4:30 on ESPN.

Metro Atlantic Athletic

Wanted: a new mid-major crush.

Dreamy Jared Jordan and the Marist Red Foxes were upset by fourth seeded Siena 86-78 in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament in Bridgeport, CONN on Sunday.

The Red Foxes, MAAC regular season champions, had beaten the Saints twice in overtime this season, and four straight dating back to last season.

Marist has not been to the national tournament for 20 seasons, and the players and coach Matt Brady seemed stunned that this wasn't the year to end that streak.

"We're tremendously disheartened," Brady said. "We had grand designs. We were a little unnerved."

Marist senior guards Jordan and Will Whittington led the way with 18 and 19 points respectively.

Brady said his team would gather its composure for the National Invitation Tournament. Jordan said the Marist players were "real surprised" at Sunday's result because "we felt we were the best team here."

Whittington added: "We should have won the game. Too many turnovers and mental mistakes."


Siena will face No. 2 Niagara which knocked off third seeded Loyola of of Maryland 89-79.

The Purple Eagles (God I love March) have won ten straight and have appeared in the MAAC championship game four times in six years.

Siena and Niagars will duke it out tonight at 9 on the lesser world wide leader.

West Coast

No. 1 Gonzaga manhandled San Diego 88-70, and No. 2 Santa Clara beat St. Mary's 63-47 in West Coast Conference semifinal action from Portland Sunday night.

San Diego players watch the last seconds of their season tick away

Both teams received automatic byes into the semifinals for their performance during the regular season. They split their regular season series with both winning convincingly on the road.

The Bulldogs need to win to avoid risking missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.

The Zags and Aras will fight for an automatic bid at 9 tonight on ESPN.


Third-seeded Valparaiso will not win the Mid-Con Tournament for the third straight year, as the three seed fell in the quarterfinals to No. 6 UMKC 84-76.

UMKC's Dee Ayuba scored 31 points and the Kangaroos (new mid-major crush???) turned a 13-point halftime deficit into an eight point victory.

Ayuba, a senior forward who was relatively quiet in UMKC's two regular-season losses to Valparaiso, was simply spectacular, hitting 8-of-9 shots in the second half.

"At halftime, there was just not the fire and passion we've seen from out team and that was a huge concern," VU coach Homer Drew said. "We knew the first four or five minutes of the second half would be critical, but we never recaptured that energy. We were always a step slow."

The Kangaroos will take on Oakland, the darlings of Championship Week '05, in tomorrow's second semifinal from the John Q. Hammons Arena in Tulsa.

The Golden Grizzlies downed No. 7 Western Illinois 74-57 on Saturday.

The first semifinal on Monday will be between top seed Oral Roberts and No. 4 IUPUI (or "Ooeypooey" in my brain). Both teams handled their first-round opponent by double-digits this weekend.