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Championship Festival Go-Round: March 9, 2011

Eleven tickets have been punched.

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57 spots are open...

The first of three bids handed out on Tuesday night was awarded in thrilling circumstances, as the four and five seeds out of the Sun Belt West division played all the way to the end in Hot Springs. Conference player of the year Solomon Bozeman's step back three with 1.5 seconds to go gave Arkansas-Little Rock a thrilling 64-63 win over North Texas to book a likely trip to Dayton early next week. That's the Trojans' first NCAA trip in 21 years.

Horizon two seed Butler avenged a season sweep at the hands of regular season champ Milwaukee, 59-44, to get back in.

Finally, mo. 1 seed Oakland got a game for about 30 minutes from two seed Oral Roberts before blowing out the Golden Eagles to claim the Summit League crown for the second consecutive season, 90-76.

In the Atlantic 10 first round last night, Dayton, La Salle, Rhode Island, St. Joseph's all moved onto Friday's quarterfinals in Atlantic City, with the Flyers, Explorers, and Hawks all winning on the road over UMass, St. Bonaventure, and George Washington respectively. Meanwhile, over in the MAC all four home teams advanced to Cleveland: Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, and defending champ Ohio.

Finally, we will have a one-game playoff to decide the Ivy title and auto bid on Saturday in New Haven, as Princeton defeated Penn, 70-58, thanks to a big second half performance. The Tigers will face Harvard who they lost to in Cambridge over the weekend for the spot (4 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

After the jump, I'll run through Wednesday's slate, which is highlighted by the NEC and Big Sky championship games in the evening.

Northeast Championship

No. 3 Robert Morris Colonials at No. 1 Long Island U. Blackbirds, ESPN2 (7 p.m. ET)

The Blackbirds haven't been to the Tournament since falling to Villanova by 10 as a 13 seed in 1997, while the Colonials just missed upsetting the Wildcats in their second consecutive NCAA appearance last season. LIU lost just twice during the NEC season with one of those defeats coming to, you guessed it, Robert Morris, at home (which you probably didn't guess) back on December 2nd by a 70-69 score. The Blackbirds won the return in Moon Township by 16 on January 20th.

Big Sky Championship

at Greeley, CO

No. 2 Montana Grizzlies vs. No. 1 Northern Colorado Bears, ESPN2 (9 p.m. ET)

The No. 2 Grizzlies opened up Tuesday's semifinal doubleheader by overcoming a 12-point first half to beat three seed Weber State, 57-40. They'll go after their second consecutive bid tonight as they meet host and top seed Northern Colorado, who topped No. 4 Northern Arizona by three in the second semifinal. The Bears are in search of their first ever bid to the NCAAs. The two split their regular season meetings, as each claimed victory at home.

Big East Second Round

at New York

All four games air on ESPN.

No. 9 Connecticut Huskies vs. No. 8 Georgetown Hoyas, 12 p.m. ET
No. 13 Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. No. 5 St. John's Red Storm, approx. 2:30 p.m. ET
No. 15 South Florida Bulls vs. No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats, 7 p.m. ET
No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles vs. No. 6 West Virginia Mountaineers, approx. 9 p.m. ET

In the early session Tuesday, UConn had little trouble, save for a spell in the middle of the second half with 16th place DePaul, to advance to a key contest for the NCAA seeding picture against Georgetown. Game two saw a game with no four-letter tournament implications, as Rutgers topped in-state rival Seton Hall, to advance to a game with Tri-State rival St. John's. The night session saw Villanova upset by USF and lose Mouphtaou Yarou to an injury, making a team that already has issues inside a bit thinner and Marquette take care of Providence to improve their position.

Big 12 First Round

at Kansas City

All four games air on Big 12 Network, Altitude, ESPN3, and Full Court.

No. 9 Oklahoma St. Cowboys vs. No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers, 12:30 p.m. ET (also on BHSN and MASN)
No. 12 Iowa St. Cyclones vs. No. 5 Colorado Buffaloes, approx. 3 p.m. ET (also on BHSN and MASN)
No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners vs. No. 7 Baylor Bears, 7 p.m. ET (also on MASN)
No. 11 Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. No. 6 Missouri Tigers, approx. 9:30 p.m. ET

Of the four games in Kansas City on Wednesday, Colorado's matchup with Iowa State, a team they fell to a week ago deserves the most attention; however, Baylor and Nebraska are on the edge of the bubble picture (meaning they need to win and hope for A LOT of losses elsewhere) and Missouri would be safe with a loss to Texas Tech, but may get a far lower seed than expected if that comes to pass.

Tournament play also begins in Conference USA, the Mountain West, and Pac-10, even though Southern Miss is the only team of the 14 in action from those conferences who have even a glimmer of at-large hope.

Conference USA First Round

at El Paso, TX

No. 9 Central Florida Knights vs. No. 8 East Carolina Pirates, 1 p.m. ET
No. 12 Tulane Green Wave vs. No. 5 Southern Miss. Golden Eagles, approx. 3:30 p.m. ET
No. 11 Houston Cougars vs. No. 6 Marshall Thundering Herd, 7:30 p.m. ET
No. 10 Rice Owls vs. No. 7 SMU Mustangs, approx. 10 p.m. ET

Mountain West First Round

at Las Vegas

No. 9 TCU Horned Frogs vs. No. 8 Wyoming Cowboys, The Mtn. (5 p.m. ET)

Pac-10 First Round

at Los Angeles

Both games air on FSN and Comcast SportsNet.

No. 9 Oregon St. Beavers vs. No. 8 Stanford Cardinal, 9:10 p.m. ET
No. 10 Arizona St. Sun Devils vs. No. 7 Oregon Ducks, approx. 11:40 p.m. ET

The MEAC Tournament continues in its odd format with a final first round game as well as the quarterfinals involving the top two seeds. The final first round winner advances to Thursday's second set of quarterfinals, anchored by the three and four seeds, while all four quarterfinal winners advance to semifinals on Friday.

MEAC First Round

at Winston-Salem, NC

No. 11 Howard Bison vs. No. 6 Norfolk St. Spartans, 3 p.m. ET

MEAC Quarterfinals

No. 9 S. Carolina St. Bulldogs vs. No. 1 Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, 7 p.m. ET
No. 10 Md.-Eastern Shore Hawks vs. No. 2 Hampton Pirates, approx. 9:30 p.m. ET

In Tuesday's First Round doubleheader, both favorites fell. The 10th seed Hawks needed two OTs to upset seventh-seeded Florida A&M and move on to tonight's second quarterfinal, while the nine seed from Orangeburg handled No. 8 Delaware State by five in game two to advance to game one.

The Southland, the most unpredictable conference race out there opens its tournament with a full complement of quarterfinals, which is a bit surprising, considering the semifinals will be tomorrow and the two winners will get Friday off before contesting Saturday's final.

Just three games separated top seed McNeese State and No. 8 Nicholls State during the regular season, so this is literally anyone's event. The winner had just be ready to go to Dayton early next week.

Southland Conference Quarterfinals

at Katy, TX

No. 7 Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners vs. No. 2 Northwestern St. Demons, 1 p.m. ET
No. 6 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks vs. No. 3 Sam Houston St. Bearkats, approx 3:30 p.m. ET
No. 8 Nicholls St. Colonels vs. No. 1 McNeese St. Cowboys, 7 p.m. ET
No. 5 SE Louisiana Lions vs. No. 4 Texas State Bobcats, approx. 9:30 p.m. ET

SWAC Quarterfinals

at Garland, TX

No. 7 Prairie View Panthers vs. No. 2 Jackson St. Tigers, 1:30 p.m. ET
No. 8 Ark.-Pine Bluff Golden Lions vs. No. 1 Texas Southern Tigers, 9 p.m. ET

The SWAC is another conference that splits its quarterfinals, as the top two seeds, who were separated by four games (compare that to the Southland) play today and get Thursday off. Seeds three through six will be in action tomorrow.

WAC First Round

at Las Vegas, NV

No. 8 San Jose St. Spartans vs. No. 5 Hawaii Warriors, 3 p.m. ET
No. 7 Fresno St. Bulldogs vs. No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack, approx. 5:30 p.m. ET

The WAC Tournament moved from south from Reno this season, with the eight qualifiers playing on the same Orleans Arena floor which hosted the WCC Tournament final a little more than a day ago. The format will be similar to that event, as the top two seeds earned byes to Friday's semifinals and Nos. 3 and 4 enter the fray tomorrow.

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

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