Chances are you spent Friday of Championship Week doing something that did not involve watching Round 1 of the MAAC Tournament. Shame on you. I have taught you better than that. This is Championship Week and every game is crucial and should be followed with eager anticipation. However you are busy we know, and you had to take the lady to see "Alice in Wonderland", so that is what we are here for...to give you a primer on what you missed and what is ahead for Saturday:
1. Form Held in the MVC and OVC:
We were ready for wackiness to take place in St. Louis and Nashville, as the Ohio Valley Conference and the Missouri Valley headed for big games in their Semi and Quarterfinals respectively. However, we were left with mundaneness that caused both arenas to grow more silent than a meeting of the Lane Kiffin Fan Club. In Missouri, the top four seeds all won, with the two main contenders, Northern Iowa and Wichita State holding serve against Drake and Missouri State. It sets up a strong semifinal, as those teams join Bradley and Illinois State in what should be a meaty doubleheader. In Nashville, the battle that everyone has been waiting for was created as Morehead State exploded over Tennessee Tech and Murray State hung on to beat Eastern Illinois. Murray vs Morehead could end up being the most competitive matchup of Championship Week.
2. Detroit Woke Up the Horizon League
Lets face it, the Horizon League Tournament is going to set new levels in predictableness. Butler is 18-0 on the season, is the dominant team in the league AND gets to host the tournament at home. And oh yeah, if that isnt enough, the setup of the tournament allows them to have a straight bye into the Semifinals (I hate this trend in conference tournaments). Thus the finals in this league will be of no interest. But in the early rounds, the team that formerly employed Dick Vitale has made a small splash. After beating Valparaiso in Round 1, Detroit upset #3 seeded Green Bay tonight, 62-53. Detroit is once again the hot team in the league, having won six straight games and now will play Wright State, a team that beat it in both of its regular season meetings.
3. Wackiness in the Atlantic Sun
I am starting to think that the Atlantic Sun Conference is playing their tournament on Super Nintendo. In nearly every game, the lower seeded team has dominated the play and after the events on Friday, the Tournament will see a Championship game that will feature the #5 and 6 seeded teams in the Conference. On Friday, East Tennessee State defeated Kennesaw State, 69-64 and host Mercer beat Jacksonville 66-63, setting a showdown between two mediocre teams for the right to play in the play-in game of the NCAA Tournament. In both games, the action stayed close throughout and a friend who was in attendance told me that the games were like a "party that I was not invited to but that I crashed." I dont know what that means, but I would assume it suggests that we all should have been in Macon, Georgia on Friday night.
There were also the beginnings to the Southern, West Coast, MAAC and Colonial Tournaments, but none of the games were very exciting and except for Elon beating Davidson (and no Stephon Curry doesnt play there anymore), there were no real upsets.
All of which leads me to WHAT IS ON TAP FOR SATURDAY. There are three championship games with NCAA Berths on the line, and they should be your focus on Saturday.
1. BIG SOUTH FINAL: #1 Coastal Carolina vs #3 Winthrop 4 pm
The second NCAA Tournament ticket will be punched in Conway, South Carolina, where the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina seek to make it to the Big Dance by beating a team that has been there a number of times in recent years, Winthrop. Coastal Carolina is coached by Cliff Ellis, the former Auburn and Clemson coach, who is seeking to become just the fifth coach in NCAA Tournament history to take four different teams to the NCAA Tournament. The Chanticleers (which is an odd name for a mascot and someone has some explaining to do to me as to why we accept it), were 28-5 on the season and anything short of a win in this game will be very disappointing.
2. ATLANTIC SUN FINAL: #5 East Tennessee State vs #6 Mercer 6 pm
We all have apparently missed quite the show in Macon. I havent been there because I would never go to Macon without a subpoena and none of us have seen it on television because apparently some tv network thinks they are too good to show Atlantic Sun games. But the tournament has been wacky and we are left with two teams with middling records and rather disappointing seasons, playing for a chance to go dancing. Mercer is the host school and will have the crowd on its side, ETSU had the better season record, but Mercer swept the season series and will have the best individual player in the game in Guard James Florence. Plus, I have been to ETSU and its in Johnson City, Tennessee and the girls there are fairly cute. So chances are that ETSU will want to get out of Macon as soon as possible and return home, making Mercer the favorite.
3. OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE FINAL: #1 Murray State vs #2 Morehead State 8 pm
There will be those that will be watching Duke-North Carolina on Saturday night. Dont follow their lead. North Carolina is terrible this year and Duke has way too many guys that look like they were in the Mickey Mouse Club as children. The real game of the night will be in Nashville where two OVC powers, Murray and Morehead will square off for the third time this season. Both of these teams are talented, get up and down the court and their in-state rivalry has defined the OVC this year. Murray is balanced and brings a lot of players who can score in a myriad of ways. Morehead has a future NBA prospect (Kenneth Faried) on its roster and won when these two teams played just ten days ago. This will be one of the best games of Championship Week, and if you miss it, you only have yourself to blame.
So there you go...a big day is ahead and I hope you are ready. Other conferences such as the Summit, Big Sky, Sun Belt and America East kick off on Saturday as well, and good games will be taking place in St Louis and Indianapolis for the MVC and Horizon Semifinals. But your attention should be focused on the Championship games, and six hours of great Championship Week goodness. And if you watch the Duke-Carolina game, you should be forced to a punishment of actually eating dinner with Mike Patrick...I hear his gas is as bad as his stories are boring.