NCAA Basketball: Championship week concludes today as teams await release of national tournament bracket

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Original Article: March 4, 2007

The NCAA's two-week slate of conference championships came to a conclusion on Sunday, March 11. Twenty-five conferences held their championship games this past week, cementing the postseason destinies of schools headed to the national tournament.

Conference championship recaps

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The week kicked off with the Missouri Valley Conference championship. The Southern Illinois Salukis took on the Creighton Bluejays for the right to guarantee a trip to the national tournament. While nationally-ranked SIU was heavily favored and had defeated Creighton twice during the regular season, the Salukis had no answer for the Bluejays attack. Creighton led by as many as 14 points, and while SIU was able to cut the deficit to five in the waning minutes, Creighton's free throw shooting allowed them to ride the lead to a victory.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The first game on March 5th featured the Virginia Commonwealth Rams taking on the George Mason Patriots. GMU, coming off a trip to the national semifinals last year, simply ran out of steam as VCU used a 12-2 run in the final 90 seconds of the game to finish off the Patriots, 68-58. With GMU leading by 5 points with just under 1:30 remaining, VCU scored 6 straight points to take the lead. Off a miss by GMU, Eric Maynor of VCU brought down the rebound and drew an intentional foul that would all but seal the win for the Rams. VCU's overall record now stands at 27-6.

In the MAAC final, Niagara University got 26 points from Tyrone Lewis and 21 from Lorenzo Miles as the Purple Eagles defeated Siena University 83-79. Niagara returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.

Out west, the Gonzaga Bulldogs wrapped up their fourth straight West Coast Conference tournament championship with a 77-68 win over Santa Clara. The Broncos' loss marked the final game for Santa Clara coach Dick Davey, who announced his retirement on February 1st. Gonzaga will be making its ninth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Three more conference champions were crowned on Tuesday night. The first game of the evening was the Mid-Continent Conference championship, which went to the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles. The matchup against Oakland University of Michigan was a rematch of the Mid-Con final from 2005, when the seventh-seeded Grizzlies upset ORU to earn the MCC's automatic bid. Tonight would not be a repeat of that fateful game two years ago, as the Golden Eagles held off a spirited rally from Oakland to win. Oakland led by 11 at the half, but ORU stormed back early in the second half and kept the Grizzlies at bay for the last seven minutes of the game.

The second game of the evening was an upset, with the Wright State Raiders upsetting the 17th-ranked Butler Bulldogs 60-55. Butler trailed by 8 with 11 minutes to go in the game but fought back and kept the game close for the last half of regulation, but the Raiders were able to fend off the Bulldogs with four straight free throws in the final 12 seconds. Butler still stands a chance of receiving an at-large selection to the tournament but will not know their fate until March 11.

The final game of the evening was the Sun Belt championship, with the North Texas Mean Green taking the conference championship over Arkansas State 83-75. UNT led by only one at the break but scored 46 points in the second half to earn their first conference championship since 1988.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Two conferences crowned champions on Wednesday evening. In the Northeast Conference, the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils earned a trip to the NCAA tournament with a 74-70 win over Sacred Heart. The Blue Devils will be the only team from Connecticut in the tournament this year as state counterpart UConn was eliminated in the first round of the Big East tournament and will presumably miss out on the tournament with a 17-14 overall record.

Out west in the Big Sky Conference, the Weber State Wildcats picked up their 20th win, a conference championship, and their first NCAA invitation since 2003 with an 88-80 victory over the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. While NAU was able to cut a 21-point Weber State lead to as little as two points, the Lumberjacks never led in the game.

There are no conference championship games on Thursday. The Patriot League resumes the slate of conference championship games on Friday.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The lone conference championship on Friday saw the Crusaders of the College of the Holy Cross defeat the Bucknell Bison 74-66. The Crusaders, leading 35-22 at the half, opened the second half with an 11-5 run, before the Bison answered with a 13-0 of their own. The Bison were able to tie the game with just under 6 minutes left in the game, but the Crusaders scored seven straight points to answer.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The largest day of conference finals during the week commenced with the Conference USA championship featuring the Memphis Tigers and the Houston Cougars. Memphis won decisively, 71-59. The Tigers never trailed during the second half and had a double-digit lead for much of the last 20 minutes.

Out at the America East Conference championship in Burlington, Vermont, the Albany Great Danes eked out a 60-59 victory against the Vermont Catamounts. Vermont had a possession to win with 32.5 seconds left, but Albany defender Brian Lillis knocked the ball loose from Vermont guard Mike Trimboli with four seconds left to preserve the victory.

Nine other champions were crowned during the course of the day. Florida A&M won the MEAC championship narrowly, defeating Delaware State 58-56. In the SWAC, Jackson State had a slightly larger margin of victory, taking out the Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State 81-71.

Other big winners included George Washington (Atlantic 10), Oregon (Pac-10), Georgetown (Big East), and Long Beach State (Big West).

Three other conference championships game down to the final minutes. At the Mid-American Conference championship, the Miami Redhawks defeated the Akron Zips in controversial fashion. Miami player Doug Penno banked in a 3-point shot as time apparently expired, but upon review the officials placed six tenths of a second back on the official clock. When Akron's inbounds pass was tipped away, the Miami celebration could begin in earnest. Akron coach Keith Dambrot claimed that the clock started late when Miami inbounded the pass initially and that Penno's shot came after when the buzzer should have sounded. The officials determined that the Miami sequence took six seconds, and placed six tenths of a second back on the clock. Dambrot continued to protest, but to no avail.

In the Mountain West Conference championship, the UNLV Rebels rallied from a 13-point deficit early in the second half to defeat the Brigham Young Cougars 78-70. Farther south, at the Western Athletic Conference championship, the New Mexico State Aggies survived a Utah State rally and hung on for the 72-70 victory.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Five conference championships took place mere hours before the official release of the NCAA tournament bracket. The first game of the day was the Southeastern Conference championship, featuring the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Florida Gators. The Gators took control early and routed the Razorbacks 77-56 to claim their third straight SEC tournament title.

Out at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in Tampa, Florida, the North Carolina State Wolfpack fell just short of a historic tournament run, falling to the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels 89-80. NCSU entered the ACC tournament as a 10-seed, defeating three straight ranked opponents on their way to the ACC championship, but fell just short of a successful tournament run.

The Southland Conference championship came down to the final seconds, as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders won 81-78. The Northwestern State Demons hit a three-point shot with two seconds to draw within one point. Following two foul shots, the Demons had an opportunity to tie with another three-point shot but their inbounds pass was tipped and intercepted as time expired. The Islanders earn their first trip to the NCAA tournament with the win.

The Big Ten Conference championship started off a tight affair, but the Ohio State Buckeyes, top-ranked in the country at game time, pulled away from the Wisconsin Badgers in a 66-49 final. It was believed that the winner of this game would receive a top seed in the national tournament.

The final conference championship to be decided was the Big 12 Championship. The Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks played an extremely tight game, with multiple ties and lead changes during the course of the game. Mario Chalmers of Kansas hit a three-pointer with 13.8 seconds left to tie it, with the Jayhawks having battled back from a deficit late in the half. Kevin Durant's shot with two seconds left hit the back rim and bounced away, sending the game into overtime. In the overtime, Texas missed their first three free throws but was able to maintain pace through the first part of the extra period. Shooting struggles and fatigue doomed Texas in the overtime, however, and Kansas was able to hang on for the win and the Big 12 Conference tournament championship by a final score of 88-84. Two key shot blocks from the Kansas defense spurred the victory for the Jayhawks.

2007 Conference tournament champions

* - Ivy League has no post-season tournament; automatic qualifier is determined by regular season standing

Sources

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.