By Andrew Kahn
The court stormings have increased dramatically, a signal that the madness has begun. Several one-bid leagues crowned their tournament champion this past weekend. The other conferences wrapped up their regular season. The result was the first in what will be a string of great weekends of college hoops.
Five teams punched their tickets to the Big Dance this weekend. Yale clinched the Ivy League regular season title—and the automatic bid that goes with it—when it beat Columbia on Saturday, a day after Harvard handed Princeton its second league loss. The Bulldogs, who are going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962, have a strong profile and are projected to be a 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida Gulf Coast helped the Atlantic Sun avoid an awkward situation by toppling Stetson in the title game. Stetson is ineligible for the Tournament; had it won, the A-Sun’s automatic bid would have gone to regular season champ North Florida. Instead, FGCU is dancing for the first time since the “Dunk City” squad reached the Sweet 16 in 2013 after Zach Johnson’s incredible block preserved an 80-78 overtime win.
Austin Peay, the 8 seed in the Ohio Valley, took home the title, as did 4 seed UNC Asheville in the Big South. Northern Iowa won the Missouri Valley for the second year in a row, knocking off top seed Wichita State in the semis and taking down Evansville on Wes Washpun’s jumper at the buzzer. Despite wins over North Carolina and Iowa State, the Panthers lost seven games in the Valley this year and were not in line for an at-large bid.
Several more championship matchups are set, including three Monday (Colonial, MAAC, and Southern), all of which feature the leagues’ top two seeds.
Heels avenge Duke loss
North Carolina grabbed a season-high 56 percent of its misses at Duke on Saturday to propel the Tar Heels to a 76-72 victory and an outright ACC regular season championship. Brice Johnson scored 18 and grabbed 21 rebounds (12 offensive). He also converted an alley-oop in the first half in which he seemed to pause mid-air after catching it before hammering it down:
Three-point shooting remains a concern for the Heels, who were 4 of 23 against Duke and rank near the bottom of the country in percentage. Carolina ended the regular season 14-4 in league, with Virginia and Miami, which lost to Virginia Tech on Saturday, finishing a game back. A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is still within reach for Carolina.
A new York
What a week for Gabe York. The Arizona senior hit a game-winning three against Cal on Thursday, and tied the school and McKale Center record with nine three-pointers on Saturday. The performances followed his worst two-game stretch of the season, both Arizona losses. On Saturday, York nailed 9-of-14 from deep for a career high 32 points in his final home game, a 94-62 win over Stanford. The sharpshooter connected on three consecutive possessions—each deeper than the last—in a span of less than a minute in the second half to blow the roof off McKale. The Wildcats look strong heading into the Pac-12 Tournament, where they are the four seed and would potentially face Oregon in the semis.
Oh my (Incarnate) Word
Even if you’ve seen this, it’s worth watching again. In the regular season finale of the Southland Conference, Incarnate Word’s Shawn Johnson took a behind-the-back pass on a fast break and dunked over Houston Baptist’s Asa Cantwell, who made a poor effort at taking a charge. Johnson descended from the rim in a seated position on Cantwell’s shoulders, and Cantwell proceeded to give him a piggyback ride of sorts before a ref came to help Johnson to the ground. Cantwell took it in stride, grabbing Johnson’s legs to make sure he didn’t fall and laughing at the predicament. It was actually a nice display of sportsmanship, though a really bizarre play.
Entering Saturday, most bracketologists had Michigan in the field, but barely. The Wolverines lost at home to Iowa and now appear to be on the wrong side of the bubble. VCU nearly won the Atlantic 10 outright regular season title, but a one-point overtime loss to Dayton denied them that chance and hurt their Tournament chances. Syracuse didn’t do itself any favors losing at Florida State on Saturday. Other bubble teams took care of business, including Tulsa, Temple, St. Bonaventure, Butler, Florida, Gonzaga, and Cincinnati, which scored a nice win over No. 24 SMU.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.