Championship Festival Go-Round: March 7, 2011

Four Teams Are In...

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64 to go...

 

Third seed Indiana State upset No. 1 Missouri State, 60-56, to claim the Missouri Valley Conference title in St. Louis. That's the first NCAA bid for the Sycamores since 2001. That squad earned a 13 seed and upset Oklahoma in the first round before falling to Gonzaga in round two in Memphis. The alma mater of Larry Bird and Burl Ives is likely to be placed in a similar position this time around.

Seven championship games were set on Sunday, but three of them will take place later in the week. In the America East, top seed Vermont was blown out by No. 5 seed Stony Brook, 69-47, which means the Catamounts are headed to the NIT, and this conference's winner is a candidate to go to Dayton. Two seed Boston University will host the final after topping early round host Hartford, 55-49. The Terriers and Seawolves will meet on Saturday at high noon to determine the bid. Northeast Conference top seed Long Island will entertain third-seeded Robert Morris  for the Northeast title on Wednesday evening in Brooklyn. The Blackbirds barely got past Central. Connecticut State, 69-67, while the two-time defending champ Colonials stunned No. 2 Quinnipiac on their home floor for the second NEC Tournament running. Friday's Patriot final will be an all-Pennsylvania affair after sixth-seeded Lafayette knocked off American, 73-71, on a Jim Mower three with 0.5 seconds left. It was the second double OT game between the two in the span of a week. The Leopards will head to top seed Bucknell's Sojka Center for the championship game, after the Bison escaped a close call against Lehigh, winning 66-64.

After the jump, I'll look at the four finals set for this Monday night, as well as a quartet of conference tournament semifinals.

CAA Final

at Richmond

No. 4 VCU Rams vs. No. 2 Old Dominion Monarchs, ESPN (7 p.m. ET)

Bubble teams throughout the land will be cheering for a Monarchs win, as a VCU victory will all but assure three bids for the Colonial. In Sunday's semifinals, the Rams hammered No. 1 seed George Mason, snapping the Patriots' 16-game win streak. That was the fourth time in five seasons that VCU has defeated GMU in the CAA Tournament, held not too far from campus. The Rams will need that advantage as they take on archrival ODU for the title this evening. The second seed advanced by dispatching No. 3 Hofstra by eight in the second semifinal. The two teams split their two meetings during the regular season, with each winning on the other's home floor.

MAAC Final

at Bridgeport, CT

No. 4 St. Peter's Peacocks vs. No. 2 Iona Gaels, ESPN2 (7 p.m. ET)

Like George Mason, MAAC top seed Fairfield lost its semifinal on Sunday, but unlike the Patriots' the Stags have only the NIT auto bid to look forward to after their comeback against St. Peter's fell short. The Peacocks led 40-15 at halftime, but a furious Stag rally got them within striking distance, until they ran out of gas. St. Peter's will take on No. 2 Iona in the final after the Gaels hammered third-seeded Rider by 24. Iona handled the Peacocks in both of their regular season meetings.

Southern Conference Final

at Chattanooga

S2 Wofford Terriers vs. S1 College of Charleston Cougars , ESPN2 (9 p.m. ET)

It will be an all-South Division final in Chattanooga, as the defending tournament champion Terriers blasted North Division champ Western Carolina in the first semifinal, 86-72, while Charleston, champions of the South, came from behind to top Furman, 63-58, in game two. The Cougars won both games against Wofford this season, claiming the game in Spartanburg by just four, then winning by 25 at home.

West Coast Final

at Las Vegas

No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 1 St. Mary's, Calif. Gaels, ESPN (9 p.m. ET)

The top seeded Gaels got more of a fight than they expected out of No. 4 Santa Clara, triumphing 73-64 after a spirited first semifinal at the Orleans Arena. The second game was even closer as Gonzaga won their rubber match with No. 3 San Francisco, 71-67, a victory that keeps the Bulldogs' at-large hopes alive. Tonight's game will not only decide the WCC's auto bid, but the season series between the two conference co-champs, as each won on the other's home court.

Summit League Semifinals

at Sioux Falls, SD

Both games air on Midco Sports Net, ESPN3, and Full Court.

No. 5 South Dakota St. Jackrabbits vs. No. 1 Oakland, Mich. Golden Grizzlies, 7 p.m. ET
No. 3 IUPUI Jaguars vs. No. 2 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, approx. 9:30 p.m. ET

After two days of quarterfinal action, tonight's semis will feature the fifth-seeded Jackrabbits, who are playing not too far from home, against runaway league winner Oakland, thanks to SDSU's 10-point win over No. 4 seed IPFW Sunday night. Three seed IUPUI, the only team to defeat the Golden Grizzlies in Summit play, moved on too, by blowing out No. 6 UMKC, 79-55.

Sun Belt Semifinals

at Hot Springs, AR

Both games air on Sun Belt Network, CSS, ESPN3, and Full Court.

W4 North Texas Mean Green vs. E3 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 7 p.m. ET
W5 Ark.-Little Rock Trojans vs. E2 Middle Tenn. St. Blue Raiders , approx. 9:30 p.m. ET

It was Upset Night at the double courts in Hot Springs, as three of the four teams that earned quarterfinal byes fell. In the first session, North Texas knocked off Mike Jarvis' Florida Atlantic, the East top seed, 78-64, sending the Owls to the NIT, and West No. 2 Louisiana-Lafayette fell to Western Kentucky. That defeat snapped the Ragin' Cajuns' 11-game win streak. East 2 seed Middle Tennessee is the new favorite after they blew out Florida International by 35. West top seed Arkansas State wasn't so lucky, as they fell by seven to in-state rival UALR.

Please share your thoughts about tonight's action in the comments, after you sign up for a free SB Nation account, of course.

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