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It feels like the Sugar Bears have been knocking on the door of the NCAA tourney for a while now ( five straight losses in the Southland Conference Tournament dating back to 2011) Finally, it opened. The Bearkats did. not. make.it. easy. Truly a valiant effort by the #7 seed who was playing its fourth game in as many days. Central Arkansas pulled away in the fourth for a 69-62 win.

“I’m so proud and happy for this team,” said Central Arkansas head coach Sandra Rushing, who had 8 NCAA appearances in 10 seasons at Delta State in Division II, but is taking a team to the Division I tournament for the first time. “They have worked extremely hard all year long, refused to lose, and found a way to win.”

Coach Yolett McCuin‘s Jacksonville team had been tugging on the Eagles’ tail feathers all season. They lost by 19 in their first meeting. Their second meeting was a 4pt win for FGCU. The third time? Jacksonville stormed back in the fourth to notch the 2pt win, claim the Atlantic Sun tournament and clinch its first NCAA tournament berth.

“When the game started to get away from us in the third quarter and they started to pull away, my thought was ‘if we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose with the people who got us 21 wins,’” Jacksonville coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “We’ve had games this year where I’ve done that to prepare us for this situation.”

Congrats to coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and her players at UNC-Asheville. Longtime WBH readers know of the rebirth of the UNC-A program under this year’s Big South COY. The Bulldogs faced down Liberty through two overtimes to earn the 64-62.

“The legacy is complete,” said Love, the senior who was part of the 2-28 team in Kirkpatrick’s first year. “We beat the beast. But what a game they played. What a hard-fought win by us. I’m so happy for this team.”

Added Khaila Webb, ‘Nobody believed in us except for us. We were picked to finish eighth, but we knew we could do it. I’m just so proud of everyone on this team.”

Well, lookee! Kellie Harper‘s Missouri State Bears became the first 3 seed to win the MVC. Oh, and their going back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. They took down top-seed Northern Iowa with authority, 71-58.

“Every run they made, we had an answer,” Harper said. “We scored right away, usually got a couple of baskets, and put them right back in the same spot. Sometimes we don’t always make it pretty, but we find a way to be successful.”

What a run for Robert Morris and (trying to retire) coach.

Coach Sal Buscaglia has a sign in his office that says simply: “Believe”.

Even when his Robert Morris team was in the midst of a losing streak in January, the Colonials never lost hope. Now they’re headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

“I told them believe in our system and we’ll take you to the promise land,” Buscaglia said after Robert Morris beat Sacred Heart 56-51 on Sunday to win the NEC Conference Tournament championship. “We started winning games toward the end.”

With Sunday’s win, Buscaglia will have one last chance to get a first NCAA Tournament victory.

Green Bay made sure the Horizon status quo stayed status quo. The Phoenix used a clampdown defense to stifle Milwaukee and earn a 16th trip the NCAA tourney.

You know what I don’t want to be right now?  An NCAA Selection Committee member. Charlie offers up the Three biggest bracket questions heading into Selection Monday

1. The bubble

So much of the bubble movement took place a week ago as the power-five conferences were playing their conference tournaments, but this Sunday provided that last bit of intrigue and what is now a big question for the committee: Florida Gulf Coast.

The Eagles, unbeaten in league play and the Atlantic Sun’s No. 1 seed, lost in their tournament final to second-seeded Jacksonville. Most years that would have been it for FGCU. Most years the No. 71 RPI team from the 29th-rated conference would not even be up for discussion.

This isn’t most years.

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fill in the rest of their brackets.

Check out their site for their at large teams late Monday night. Below are their automatic bids (lotta good teams):

a-American (Patriot)
a-Cal Poly (Big West)
a-Central Arkansas (Southland)
a-Davidson (Southern)
a-Detroit (Horizon)
a-Eastern Illinois (OVC)
a-Fairfield (Metro Atlantic)
a-Harvard (Ivy)
a-High Point (Big South)
a-Howard (MEAC)
a-Memphis (Conference USA)
a-Mississippi Valley St. (SWAC)
a-Northern Colorado (Big Sky)
a-Oral Roberts (Summit)
a-Quinnipiac (Northeast)
a-Stetson (Atlantic Sun)
a-UNLV (Mountain West)
a-Utah State (WAC)

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Happened to a few fer-0s.

Key parts have been missing for both teams (coach and star player), but in a game of almost equal and opposite halves, it was Toledo who topped Bowling Green, sending the Phoenix to their first MAC conference loss.

Good match up in the MEAC between Florida A&M (10-1) and Howard (10-2). The Bison emerged victorious, sending the Rattlers to their first conference loss, 68-61.

Here the game Debbie and Beth would have loved: Eastern Illinois (11-1) v. Tennessee-Martin (11-1). Skyhawks had a big lead in the first, Panthers roar back, then Skyhawks explode for 16 in OT to hand EIU their first loss in the OVC, 94-86.

Dayton was thiiiiiiiiis close to the upset, but #25 St. Bonaventure, and Megan Van Tatenhove, didn’t let entering the top 25 distract them, and got the win, 56-55. (Aren’t pre-season polls interesting?)

Boston University easily dismissed Stony Brook, and the Terriers are now 12-0 in the America East. (Might be nice to see a story on’em…hint, hint)

FGCU’s record in the A-Sun is still pristine (and the regular season title is clinched), as is Fresno State’s in the WAC.

After their 20-pt. win over Holy Cross, American U is 10-0 in the Patriot. (Another team that might be worth a story — tracing the transition from McFerrin, who built the program, to now 4th year coach Matt Corkery)

Princeton (84-56) carved up the Crimson, 84-56, making them odds on favorites in the Ivy. From coach B: Three 1,000 point scorers in one season – proud is an understatement.

There was no surprising Baylor this time, thankyouverymuch. A sold out house listened, then watched the Bears crush the Aggies, 71-48. (Blair gets a lot of chuckles: “Sometimes the key to beating Baylor is the key itself. Lock Griner in the bathroom, don’t let her out” ) I am wondering, though, if there’s some kind of message hidden in Griner’s 40 minutes and Sims’ 38.

Looks like the Camels were spitting mad and took it out on Big South Big(ish) Dog High Point, 89-68.

Bombs away! 18 three pointers? That must have been some YUM fun! (Unless, of course, you were a Syracuse fan.)

Yah, it took two OTs, but Liberty is now 10-1 in the Big South.

‘Ware the Sugar Bears of Central Arkansas! They hog tied McNeese State 64-53, and are now 10-1 in the Southland.

Can you get a double double-double? #9 Green Bay need every single one of Wojita’s 30 points, 20 rebounds, 8 steals and 5 assists and 4 blocks (They’re still tallying the total number of programs, hot dogs and sodas she sold.) to escape the much improved Wright State, 64-59.

No, Vermont is not the team of Pilypaitis and Kotsopoulos, but you still gotta pay attention to them and their history. Which is why it’s important to note that New Hampshire beat them, 58-48. Another great story in the Am. East.

The Mountaineers have climbed to 14-1 in the Southern.

The Jackrabbits hopped over the Kangaroos, 79-73, and now South Dakota State sits at 12-1 in the Summit. It would have been fun to hear the play-by-play folks handle the names of the top scorers from both teams: Sunnarborg and Nezianya.

San Diego State had to come back from a couple down to secure the 77-64 win over UNLV and move to 8-1 in the MWC.

Am I right in remembering that San Diego has been a tad fodder-esque over the years? Not so much this year: they’re 9-3 in the WCC.

At 9-1 in the A-10, the Owls are now quietly stalking the Bonnies.

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I was listening in to Debbie and Beth’s podcast from last week (love their State of the (Basketball) Union addresses) so I could pick up the names of five “under the radar” players (though I wouldn’t call Julie UTR) and give them a little shout out:

At Florida International, it was sophomore guard Jerica Coley. She’s had 5 30+ games and her 24ppg sits her right behind EDD in the scoring race.

At Hofstra, it was junior forward Shante Evans. She entered her junior season with 1,024 career points and 665 career rebounds (putting her at eighth all-time in program history.

At VCU, it was senior forward Courtney Hurt. “Hurt turned in perhaps the greatest season in VCU history in 2010-11, leading the nation in rebounding (12.4 rpg) and double-doubles (25), while ranking second in the NCAA in scoring (23.2 ppg).”

At Green Bay, it was senior forward Julie Wojta. Shooting 52% from the field this season, she averages 18.7 ppg, is an 82% FT shooter, and has snagged 77 steals.

At Gonzaga it was senior forward Kayla Standish. She averages 15 ppg and 7.5 rebs. Last year she scored double-figure points in all but five games; including 12 20-plus point contests and two 30-plus point contest.

A player they might want to holler at: junior forward Central ArkansasMegan Herbert. When the Sugarbears took down McNeese State, Herbert had a season-high 32 points and 15 rebounds for her 56th career double-double and became the eighth player in Sugar Bear history to eclipse the 1,500-point mark. Howee says Van says: she’d exceeded Fowles’ double-double count, and was second only to Courtney Paris in consecutive dd games.

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