Monday, March 9, 2009

The Conference Tournament Pool -- Sunday Recap and Monday Preview

We had overtime to decide the MVC champ. We had double overtime in a pivotal MAAC semifinal. The most popular pick in the whole pool so far went down in a semifinal upset in the Southern Conference. And people, we're not even halfway through with this pool.

Madness, they say. Madness.

Ten tournaments saw action Sunday, and six of those will play again Monday, when four will crown their champions. Let's get right to the recaps.

The top two seeds advance to the title game. No. 1 American barely got by Army 61-60, and Holy Cross took out Colgate with no trouble. The Patriot League final, which won't be held until Friday, will determine who gets the $1 prize in our pool. If American wins, Mark Feinsand and Steve Politi will each have scored 10 out of a possible 11 points and will each get 50 cents. If Holy Cross wins, Jon Graziano will have 10 out of 11 and will get the whole dollar. I'll remind you all of this Thursday night/Friday morning, as I'm sure you'll have forgotten by then.

Just one upset in the Sun Belt, but it was a big one, with No. 6 South Alabama knocking off No. 3 Troy 78-75 to advance to the semifinals. Nine people had Troy winning this game, seven had Troy advancing to the final and Dan and Mark both picked the Trojans to cut down the nets in Hot Springs. Instead, it'll be South Alabama taking on second-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock in one semifinal Monday while top-seeded Western Kentucky faces North Texas in the other. Eight people have Western Kentucky to win this tournament. Steve and Ed have Little Rock. It's up for grabs, but so far Steve has a perfect 13 points out of a possible 13, having picked all nine Sun Belt games correctly. There's something for Bracket Boy to crow about in his first column.

All anybody really noticed about this final was that it went into overtime, which delayed CBS' ability to show Duke-North Carolina to a country that really wanted to see it. Northern Iowa beat Illinois State 60-57 in OT to claim the MVC's automatic bid to the Big Dance. Ed, Jon and Greg all picked Northern Iowa to win this tournament, but Ed Price wins the $1 thanks to a bracket that scored 19 out of a possible 20 points. Indiana State's first-round win over Drake was the only thing that kept AOL Sports' new baseball writer from perfect.

Chalk here, as top-seeded Robert Morris handled Quinnipiac 75-48 in one semifinal and No. 2 Mount St. Mary's took out Sacred Heart, 68-63, in the other. Yohan had Quinnipiac winning it all, and Dan, Ed, Mark and Nino had Sacred Heart, so they're all in trouble. The championship game will be played Wednesday. If Robert Morris wins it, Steve Politi will pocket $1 with a score of 10 out of a possible 11. If Mount St. Mary's wins it, Jim Graziano and Greg Lester will each have a perfect 11-point bracket and will split the $1.

Sixth-seeded UMBC took out Albany in Albany and will face top-seeded Binghamton in an America East final that won't take place until Saturday. This bracket is a mess, as only two people had Binghamton winning and nobody picked UMBC. Jim Graziano leads with 10 out of a possible 15 points so far, and if UMBC pulls the upset Saturday, Jim will pocket the $1. But if Binghamton wins, Steve Politi will win this one too, with a score of 11 out of a possible 19.

Top seed VCU takes out Old Dominion, and second-seeded George Mason ends Towson's Cinderella run, so the top two seeds in the CAA will play for the title and the bid. Chris Sabatino and Rob Biro each had 15 out of a possible 18 points in this bracket so far, and each picked George Mason. So if Mason wins Monday's final, Chris and Rob will split the $1. But if VCU wins, those two and everybody else will be passed by Paul "Nino" Canino, who would pocket the whole dollar himself.

Can I tell you guys how psyched I am that the Rider-Niagara semifinal was on one of the local MSG channels here? What a game. Niagara banks in a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to force overtime. They miss five free throws and blow a six-point lead in the final minutes of the first overtime. Then, with 1.7 seconds left in double-overtime, a guy named Bilal Benn, who had 21 points and 19 rebounds (11 offensive!) in the game steals the ball from Rider's Ryan Thompson and seals the win with a couple of free throws at the other end. Fantastic game, and very important to our pool. Everybody correctly forecast Siena's semifinal win over Fairfield, but this Rider-Niagara matchup saw a big split. Five had Niagara winning it and seven had Rider. Of those seven, five also had Rider beating Siena in Monday's final. Dan Graziano and Mark Feinsand have Niagara beating Siena in Monday's final, and if that happens, Dan will pocket the $1 first prize from this tournament with a score of 17 out of a possible 20. If Siena wins, Yohan Sengamalay will win the $1 with a score of 18 out of 20. Final is at 9 pm on ESPN2.

Yeah, Charleston took out Davidson in a 59-52 barnburner, which turned a lot of things red on the Southern Conference bracket, as 10 of the 12 of us had Davidson winning this tournament. Ed Price picked Chattanooga to win this tournament, and they could, as they beat Samford and will play Charleston in Monday's final. (Nobody had Charleston winning.) Yohan is the current leader here with 12 out of a possible 18 points so far, and if Charleston wins the tournament, Yohan gets $1. But if Chattanooga wins, Ed will have 13 points and pass Yohan to win the prize.

The top two seeds also advanced to the final in the WCC, as Gonzaga whipped Santa Clara and St. Mary's pulled away from Portland late. To this point, Greg Lester and Paul "Nino" Canino each have picked all six WCC games correctly for a perfect score of 12 out of 12. Each also has Gonzaga winning Monday night's final, which means if that happens, Greg and Nino will split the buck. But if St. Mary's wins tonight's game, Dan Graziano will collect the buck with a score of 13 out of a possible 16, because he is one of two people who picked St. Mary's to win this tournament. And because, frankly, he could use a break on this stuff right about now.

The Summit League completed its first round with a pair of games Southern Utah took out IUPUI and Oakland knocked off IPFW, making it a bad all-around day for initials. Steve, Ed and Yohan each have three out of a possible four points so far, and nine of the 12 of us still have our champions in it. Monday's semifinals pit top-seeded North Dakota State against Southern Utah and fourth-seeded South Dakota State against Oakland. Six people have ND State winning this thing, three have Oakland, and three had Oral Roberts, which lost is first-round game Saturday to SD State.


Ed Price: 118
Steve Politi: 116
Greg Lester: 113
Rob Biro: 113
Yohan Sengamalay: 113
Jon Graziano: 112
Chris Sabatino: 112
Jim Graziano: 110
Paul "Nino" Canino: 109
Mark Feinsand: 107
Sal Sabatino: 104
Dan Graziano: 99

CHAMPIONS PICKED CORRECTLY SO FAR (out of a possible four)
Steve Politi: 2 (Radford, East Tennessee State)
Jon Graziano: 2 (East Tennessee State, Northern Iowa)
Mark Feinsand: 1 (Radford)
Ed Price: 1 (Northern Iowa)
Greg Lester: 1 (Northern Iowa)
Chris Sabatino: 1 (Radford)
Sal Sabatino: 1 (East Tennesse State)

Steve Politi: $1
Mark Feinsand: $1
Ed Price: $1
Chris Sabatino: $0.50
Sal Sabatino: $0.50

Enjoy the games tonight, and please remember to send in your Big East, MAC, WAC and MEAC picks by NOON EST on Tuesday.

Thanks y'all.

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