It didn’t take long for the madness to starting during college basketball’s most frantic week. By Sunday, five NCAA Tournament bids were handed out over the weekend. Only one conference favorite earned their trip to the field of 68, and they didn’t have to rely on a postseason tournament.
The Yale bulldogs (22-6, 13-1) made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962. A year after losing their conference lead on the final weekend of the regular season, the Bulldogs completed the road sweep of Cornell and Columbia to ensure their dance card was intact. They don’t have to worry about another Ivy League playoff game. The Bulldogs can just prepare for Selection Sunday, and get ready for a potential upset.
While the Bulldogs were rewarded with a dominant regular season, other conference leaders were not so lucky. Hours earlier, Austin Peay (18-17, 7-9) won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. The Governors needed a pair of wins in late February to qualify for the OVC tournament. After earning the eight seed, they raced through the conference championship with splendid play. A two-point victory over Tennessee State was followed up by a 97-96 win over No. 1 seed Belmont in the semifinals. Then they had a relatively easy time with UT-Martin in the finals. The Governors are a lock for the big dance, and they seem like a lock to play in Dayton.
The No. 5 Northern Iowa Panthers ended the regular season with straight wins, including a victory over No. 2 seed Evansville. After defeating No. 1 seed Wichita State in overtime, the Panthers faced off with Evansville for the MVC title. A last second shot by Wes Washpun sent the Panthers back to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers are projected as a 14 seed. They also have a pair of top five wins this season.
Instead of a game winning shot, FGCU (20-13, 8-6) used a critical defensive play to earn their first trip to the tournament since their magical Sweet 16 run in 2013. The Atlantic Sun Champions are projected as a First Four candidate in Dayton.
UNC Ashville won the Big South tournament as the fourth seed. Along the way, they beat the top two seeds by a total of 20 points. After trailing by nine points at the half, UNC Ashville outscored Winthrop 53-35 in the second half. Dwayne Sutton had 25 points, and 18 rebounds.
Three more NCAA Tournament bids will be handed out on Monday night. The Colonial features the two top teams. Hofstra and UNC Wilmington will battle for a spot, while the MAAC features No. 2 Iona Gaels vs. No. 1 Monmouth Hawks. In the Southern Conference No. 2 seed ETSU takes on No. 1 Chattanooga.