Sometimes in conference tournaments, especially for one-bid conferences, the winner is the team that's playing the best basketball at that time as opposed to the team that showed itself to be the best throughout the season. But how often does the winning team not only play their best basketball at the right time but also successfully navigates an in-season coaching change? That's exactly what happened for Western Kentucky, who will make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009 as a result of their 74-70 win over North Texas.
There was no doubt that a lot was on the line in the CAA tournament final between two-seed VCU and top-seed Drexel, and that goes beyond the title that was at stake. A win would wrap up an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, which in turn would remove the need to worry about whether or not their gaudy win total would be enough to sway the selection committee.
One of the dangers of conference tournaments at the mid-major level is that the top seed, regardless of the margin by which they won the regular season title, are just 40 minutes away from seeing their dream of going to the NCAA tournament vanish. While there's still a chance as the Field of 68 won't be announced for another six days Iona and Middle Tennessee no longer have control of their own fate, and that has to be a concern for both fan bases along with the players and coaches.
The first three bids to the NCAA tournament were handed out on Saturday, with the game drawing the greatest amount of attention being the OVC title game between Murray State and Tennessee State. The reason: this is the time of the year when bubble teams actively watch the scoreboard in hopes that no unexpected competitors would show up on the landscape. At 29-1 entering the title game it was clear that Steve Prohm's team would be an "unexpected competitor" for an at-large bid and the Racers were going to receive one had they lost to the Tigers.
1. BYU survived a pesky San Diego squad to advance to the WCC semifinals.
A win over San Diego wasn't going to do a whole lot for BYU from a resume standpoint. Sure the Cougars would pick up a 25th win on the season, but a loss would have had a much larger impact on their NCAA tournament hopes than a win. That's what made the return of Noah Hartsock so important, given how much the Cougars struggled with the pesky Toreros.
At first glance it would be extreme to think that Virginia could find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble given their play for much of the season. But as the injuries have increased for Tony Bennett's team so have the struggles, with the Cavaliers having now dropped four of their last six games.