It is finally upon us. It’s tourney time! Sunday, March 8, marked the end of the 2014-15 men’s college basketball regular season. With that, conferences around the country are now into their conference tournaments with each winner earning a coveted entry into the Big Dance – the NCAA tournament, which will begin with the First Four on March 17. Here’s a look at action from the final week of the season.
Season Ends With Classic Rivalry
The storied Duke-North Carolina rivalry culminated play in the ACC as the Blue Devils picked up win number 28 and solidified the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament with an 84-77 win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Tyus Jones scored 17 of his team-high 24 points in the second half and Quinn Cook added 20. Duke finished the regular season 28-3, 15-3 in the ACC. By virtue of its victory over Virginia back on Jan. 31, the Blue Devils are ranked No. 2 in the nation just ahead of ACC regular season champion Virginia (28-2, 16-2).
Wooden Finalists Named
The 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, given to the nation’s best player, were announced. Heading the list is Wisconsin 7-foot senior center Frank Kaminsky. The Badgers best player averaged 18.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in leading Wisconsin to a Big Ten title and the No. 6 ranking in the latest AP poll. Along with Kaminsky is Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, who became the first freshman in ACC history to win conference player of the year honors. Okafor led the Blue Devils in scoring with 17.6 points per game and rebounding averaging 9.2 boards a game. He also shot 67 percent from the floor. Other notable finalists include Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon, Willie Cauley-Stein of top-ranked Kentucky, and Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle.
Northern Iowa Wins MVC Conference Tourney
Speaking of Tuttle, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, he helped lead the Panthers to an MVC conference tournament title. Tuttle and company didn’t have to deal with Wichita State. The Shockers fell to Illinois State in the semifinals. The Redbirds actually led 10th-ranked Northern Iowa by double digits but blew a lead and lost 69-60. Tuttle, a 6-8 senior, had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in the win. The Panthers are 30-3 overall. The 12th-ranked Shockers (28-4) will easily receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Syracuse In Trouble
Some of the biggest news in college basketball during the week was the plight of the Syracuse basketball program. It was determined that the Orange used ineligible players during several seasons during the 2000s. The program was forced to vacate 108 wins. Head coach Jim Boeheim, the long-time face of Syracuse basketball, is suspended for nine games. That suspension will be served next season when Boeheim will miss the first nine ACC games. Boeheim was just 34 wins short of joining Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000-win club, but now is credited with 858 wins placing him sixth on the all-time win list.
SMU Basketball Has Something To Cheer About
For the first time in 22 years, SMU has won a league title in basketball. The Mustangs, now 24-6 (15-3 in the AAC), clinched the American Athletic Conference title with its 67-62 win over Tulsa (21-9, 14-4) on Sunday. SMU coached by Larry Brown will also play in its first NCAA tourney since 1993, when it was the Southwestern Conference regular season champion. Brown guided the Mustangs to the NIT last season where they finished as the runner-up losing to Minnesota, 65-63, in the final.
Several Teams Have Punched Their Ticket To The Big Dance
Along with Northern Iowa which won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, there are a few early qualifiers for the NCAA tournament. North Florida won the Atlantic Sun Conference tourney, Coastal Carolina was the Big South tourney champion, and Belmont won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. For the first time since 1991, Northeastern earned a trip to the Big Dance after capturing the Colonial Athletic Conference tourney title. In the Southern Conference, Wofford held off pesky Furman, 67-64, to advance to the NCAA tourney.
Primed For Selection Sunday
All conference tournaments will conclude next Sunday, March 15, which is also Selection Sunday. The NCAA selection committee will gather and announce the field of 68 for this year’s NCAA tournament. This year’s Big Dance begins on March 17 and 18 with the First Four, which will be played at UD Arena on the campus of the University of Dayton in Ohio. Play picks up with the Second and Third Rounds which will be played over the long weekend of March 19 through March 22. Regional finals are set for March 28 and 29. The Final Four will get underway with the national semifinals on April 4 and then the national championship game on April 6 from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.