March Madness Permeates Metroplex

by BoCarter | Posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Special – March 10, 2018

It’s All About the Bids: March Madness Conference Tourneys Providing Intrigue, At-Large Entries
FRISCO, Texas – Is it really about March Madness or actually how many conference at-large bids any given college league receives?
Depends on your sources and interviewees, but a two-weekend marathon of Conference USA and Lone Star Conference basketball championships from Feb. 28-March 10 gave area fans plenty of quality hoops’ activity as well as helping both circuits add to their national visibility.
On top of that, the Richardson-based American Southwest Conference received two automatic and a trio of at-large berths in the NCAA Division III Basketball Championships. Regular-season and the tourney-winning upstart Sul Ross State men fell to rugged St. Olaf 88-75 in the opening DIII rounds in Platteville, Wis., while another rising program – LeTourneau – stopped Hanover (Ind.) 85-77 in Round One before losing a 83-82 heartbreaker to host Emory in Atlanta.
On the ASC women’s side regular-season runnerup (to UT Dallas) and conference tourney-taking East Baptist rolled through powerhouse Whitman (Wash.) 65-57 and host UT Dallas 64-51 to advance to the Round of 16 against St. Thomas (Minn.) in Waverly, Iowa. UTD got past in-state rival Trinity (San Antonio) 79-70 before falling to ETBU, and second women’s at-large squad McMurry fell to Southwestern Christian 71-62 in the first NCAA DIII round.
On a little larger stage, the LSC, which ended up playing its postseason meet at both Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco and Denton’s Kitty Magee Arena on the campus of Texas Woman’s University after condensation and leaks from monsoon-type rains interrupted activity at DPA, placed six teams in the NCAA DII brackets.
West Texas A&M swept the men’s and women’s crowns (record 14th time for the WT women since 1983 and an all-time LSC-tying seventh championship with Midwestern State for the Buffaloes on the men’s side) while regular-season men’s conference runnerup UT Permian Basin (which is 5-1 in its two LSC postseason tourney appearances) and Texas A&M-Commerce all won their first round games in the NCAA Canyon (Texas) DII Regional. UTPB (25-6) overall) downed Arkansas-Fort Smith 87-69 before WTAM (29-3) toppled Colorado Mines 79-65. At-large NCAA bid maker Texas A&M-Commerce (22-8)mmade it 3-0 for the LSC with a 78-62 triumph over Fort Lewis (Colo). That regional ends with Sunday-Tuesday tussles to determine which one of the eight DII teams will advance to the DII Championships Round of Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, S.D.
On the LSC women’s side regular- and postseason titlist West Texas A&M (29-4) topped Arkansas-Fort Smith 81-66 before homestanding and Top Eight DII national seed Lubbock Christian eliminated LSC tourney winner Tarleton State (20-12) 78-46 and then sent Angelo State (22-7) home with a nailbiting 61-59 victory at that regional.
WT head coach Tom Brown and A&M-Commerce Jaret Von Rosenberg also extolled the virtues of battling through this year’s LSC joust to prepare for NCAA activity.
“We had a good matchup in the semifinals with Commerce (68-55 Buffaloes triumph),” said Brown, “and this really helped us around NCAA Regional selection time. We needed a good defensive grinder like this one to get ready to advance.”
“It was an ugly game with West Texas,” Von Rosenberg noted, “but both teams played good defense against an opponent who could score. WT picked up the tempo in the third quarter, and we had a couple of bad possessions, and that was the story on the game (after A&M grabbed a 25-24 halftime edge).”
And at the unique C-USA venue with side-by-side courts, visits by the popular all-sports KTCK Radio and a large group of area NFL favorites – Mean Joe Greene, Merton Hanks, Tony Dorsett, and Darren Woodson, just to name a few seated at courtside – added to some of the most well-contested bouts in the 23-year history of the loop’s basketball tourneys.
For starters, No. 11 seed North Texas (the local favorite) upset Charlotte 58-55 and Louisiana Tech 76-69 before its Cinderella run ended with a 76-61 setback to No. 2 seed and eventual C-USA title winner UAB last Friday night.
Coach Jalie Mitchell’s crew entered the game with a 7-1 series disadvantage against the 49ers and 12 all-time losse in 12 meetings with traditional power Tech. The upsets invigorated the head coach and her protégés.
“Our kids fought hard in all three games,” Mitchell related after the team ended with its best victory total since 2005-06. “We led the WKU game by five (18-13) at one point and then just could not get the shots to fall early in the third quarter. Other than that, WKU was just a little too much for us with a pair of all-conference guards and the C-USA Player of the Year in Tashia Brown.”
One night later it was Dan D’Antoni coming out of a celebration shower and holding a piece of the championship game net with a 67-66 edging of the WKU men for the automatic NCAA bid for the conference.
“That game will just wart an old man out,” laughed D’Antoni, the bother of NBA Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni who was in the crowd prior to a Sunday Dallas-Houston NBA encounter at American Airlines Center. “You can tell I’m happy. I played at Marshall when we had some great years (1966-70), and many people don’t realize that the Marshall place crash (charter flight bringing the football team and prominent boosters back from a 1970 trek to East Carolina) took the lives of most of the biggest supporters of the Marshall basketball program as well.
“This one was for them, their families, the players, our Herd fans, and the school,” Dan D’Antoni continued. “We were on top for just about the entire game, and everyone needs to remember that besides scoring 27 points against Western and being tournament MVP, Jon Elmore also was among the Top 15 in C-USA rebounding and the Top 10 in assists. He has played like that all year (with a 6-for-7 evening on three-pointers from NBA rangein the final half of the title game) and really carried us all year.”
“We were just out of character all night, “ said WKU head coach Rick Stansbury who was bidding to become the first coach to win postseason league titles in both the Southeastern (at Mississippi State in 2002 and ’09) and Conference USA in ’18. “We watched Jon Elmore make 30-35-foot contested three-pointers, and we never could get our offense untracked.”
What the finale produced was Marshall’s first NCAA basketball bid since the 1987 season when the Thundering Herd won the Southern Conference trophy, the 11th different school winning the C-USA men’s crown over 23 years and a jubilant group of players, coaches, support staff, and MU fans.”
Now 2018 C-USA regular-season men’s winner Middle Tennessee (24-7 overall and No. 32 in the latest simulated NCAA RPI) and possible WKU (24-10) await the NCAA men’s selection show Sunday evening while the winning WKU crew (24-8) and runnerup UAB (26-6 overall) look for their NCAA women’s first round assignments and possible at-large bids.
The plot for March Madness becomes even thicker. Stay tuned…

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