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What’s exciting about the first round is not so much the winners/losers but the margins of victory. Upsets – or upsets avoided – often come on last second shots. Margin of victory often comes down to size & physical fitness or skill level/coaching. So much fun to see teams go head-to-head for the first time.

Squeak!

The Great Danes may be kicking themselves over this during the off season – #4 Duke by 2 over #13 Albany, courtesy of a last second Greenwell three.

The Duke women’s basketball team was staring at the abyss. Which is pretty much what an NCAA tournament first-round loss at home at Cameron Indoor Stadium would have felt like for the Blue Devils: a bottomless gulf.

Fortunately for Duke, though, Rebecca Greenwell was there to fill up the bucket.

“Kudos to her,” Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said of the redshirt freshman’s 20 points, six coming on 3-pointers. “I mean, she killed us. That’s the game: It’s her.”

The #12 Toppers couldn’t top #5 Texas, as the Longhorns escaped with a 2-point win, 66-64.

“I told the players after the game this was a hard-fought win and there’s no shame it went down to the wire,” Texas coach Karen Aston said.

Imani McGee-Stafford had 24 points and 14 rebounds as sloppy Texas overcame 19 turnovers — including one that could have cost the Longhorns the game — and erased a late seven-point deficit.

Missing key players for extended parts of the season has toughed up both #9 Nebraska and #8 Syracuse. Only the Orange move on, though, by a slim three-point margin.

Timber!

#9 Depaul came back from a big deficit to get the win over #8 Minnesota. Bruno is a damn good coach. And Stollings is going one SO happy to add a healthy B to Zahui B. ZB notched a mere 21/22 in this game.

After making only two of 20 three-point attempts in the first half, DePaul started to connect as the Gophers faltered. They made six of 14 in the final 20 minutes, including three during their rally.

“I actually didn’t think our defense was particularly good in the first half and at the beginning of the second half,’’ Bruno said. “Maybe the 15-point deficit was the best thing that could have happened to us, because it really showed [his players] that our backs were going to be up against the wall, and they were going to have to fight to have a chance to win.”

#11 Miami built a nice first-half lead over #6 Washington, and rode Motley’s 30 to the upset win, 86-80.

Motley — who had 32 points in Miami’s biggest win, a 78-63 win over Notre Dame that likely sealed a tournament bid — hit a jumper in the lane to give Miami a 73-71 lead. Four free throws put the Hurricanes up six with a minute left.

“Her pull-up, when she goes to shoot it, the person on the bench keeping score is already writing two,” Miami coach Katie Meier said about Motley. “She’s just so consistent.”

#10-why-did-they-get-a-bid Arkansas was down 13, but came back to tripped up #7 Northwestern by 2, 57-55.

“Big boost of confidence in our first year to be in the NCAA and then to win a game like we had to win,” said Dykes, the former Razorbacks player and ESPN analyst. “We just kept saying this is a fight more than a basketball game. Our guys love that. They love that theme.”

I warned ya the WCC was tough. #11 Gonzaga took down #6 George Washington, 82-69.

With George Washington storming back within six points and the shot clock winding down Friday night, Gonzaga forward Sunny Greinacher didn’t think. She let it fly.

The ball went through net with 3:15 left to play and the 3-pointer turned to be the game-winner as No. 11 seed Gonzaga upset No. 6 seed George Washington 82-69 in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament. 

“I loved the way we battled,” Zags coach Lisa Fortier said. “I’m very happy with our performance.”

Phew!

The #14 ‘wabbits had a 2-pt lead over the #3 Beavers at the half, but Oregon State pulled away the second for the 74-62 win.

#5 Mississippi State had just enough to keep the #12 Green Wave of Tulane at bay, 57-47.

As it should be in 10 v. 7 games, the higher-seed Dayton kept Iowa State at arms length for the 11pt win.

Nice showing by #14 American in their first tourney, as they gave #3 Iowa quite the tussle, finally falling 75-67.

#13 Wichita State proved it was no slouch as they kept within striking distance of #4 Cal for most of the game with Harden matching Gray’s 22/9 output. But the Bears had too much team support, and ended up with the 12-point win, 78-66.

Just sayin’….

Yah, #1 South Carolina stomped #16 Savannah State, 81-48 – but just think: The upset MEAC champs scored 30 first-half points on the SEC champs…

Yah. #2 Baylor stomped Northwestern State but… hmmm… No buts. NWSt got stomped.

Same thing happened to #15 Tennesseee State when they faced #2 Kentucky, 97-52.

None of the Irish starters played more than 29 minutes as #1 Notre Dame cruised past #16 Montana, 77-43.

In WNIT news, Round 1 is done. Round 2 starts Sunday.

Wednesday, March 18
Michigan 72, Cleveland State 50
East Carolina 74, Radford 52
Ole Miss 80, UT Martin 70
Arkansas State 61, Western Michigan 49
Eastern Washington 67, Washington State 65

Thursday, March 19
Old Dominion 69, Virginia 62
St. John’s 64, Army 56
Fordham 70, Central Connecticut State 67
Penn 65, Hofstra 58
Temple 67, Marist 54
NC State 73, ETSU 58
West Virginia 84, Buffalo 61
Hampton 45, Drexel 42
Duquesne 72, Youngstown State 54
Georgia Tech 69, Elon 47
Middle Tennessee 69, Ball State 58
Southern Miss 79, Texas Southern 69
TCU 85, Stephen F. Austin 80
Kansas State 86, Akron 68
Missouri 69, Northern Iowa 61
South Dakota 68, Creighton 58
Northern Colorado 53, Colorado State 48
San Diego 63, Long Beach State 56
UCLA 70, CSU Bakersfield 54
Sacramento State 87, Pacific 79
Fresno State 79, San Francisco 73

Friday, March 20
Toledo 72, Wright State 64
Villanova 71, Maine 60
Richmond 67, Stetson 66
Tulsa 78, Missouri State 72
Eastern Michigan 80, Drake 70
Saint Mary’s 92, Hawaii 88 OT

ROUND 2

Sunday, March 22 (all times ET)
Temple at Penn, 2 p.m.
Fordham at St. John’s, 2 p.m.
Old Dominion at Villanova, 2 p.m.
TCU at Southern Miss, 3 p.m.
Missouri at Kansas State, 3 p.m.
Arkansas State at Middle Tennessee, 3 p.m.
NC State at ECU, 4 p.m.
UCLA at San Diego, 5 p.m.
Eastern Michigan at Tulsa, 6 p.m.
Georgia Tech at Ole Miss, 7 p.m.
South Dakota at Northern Colorado, 7 p.m.

Monday, March 23
Michigan at Toledo, 7 p.m.
Eastern Wash. at Sacramento St, 10 p.m.
Fresno State at Saint Mary’s, 10 p.m.

Tuesday, March 24
Hampton at West Virginia, 7 p.m.
Richmond at Duquesne, 7 p.m.

In NCAA Division III, the finals are set. It’ll be Thomas More going to their first championship game, courtesy of their 62-52 win over Tufts.

Friday night’s victory (30-2) helped the Saints (32-0) forget a rather difficult anniversary. A year ago Friday, Thomas More’s 2014 season ended in the quarterfinals — and Moss tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. “I had surgery and I was ready to come back when we started practice in October,” said Moss, who bears a black brace on that knee. “I’m not 100 percent though, I’d say more about 85. I’m still a little slow,” she said with a sly grin. “It’s still hard to move side to side sometimes; I have to slide my feet.”

They’ll face off against George Fox, who returned to the title match with their 70-58 win over Montclair State.

“We are just elated to be going to the national championship game,” head coach Michael Meek said. “We have had nothing but fantastic support from our community back home and we use that as motivation when we play. This is just an awesome experience for these women and I can’t wait for us to play tomorrow night.”

From the good folks at D3Hoops: Title game is two perfect

Thomas More defeated Tufts on another record breaking night for Sydney Moss while  George Fox’s full court press wore down Montclair State, setting up an national title game between two undefeated teams.

You can catch the game here at 7:30pm.

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Michelle has a primer for the “big” conferences. 

Here are my picks:

American East – I’m going with the return of the Black Bears – regular season champs for the first time in 10 years. It’s a great story, and it deserves a happy ending. (But ‘ware the Danes)

American – UConn. From Mechelle:

When you’ve won 908 games and nine NCAA titles, you don’t have many towns that hold bad memories. But you could say Tampa is such a place for UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Not in regard to Monday’s game, of course, in which his Huskies finished off another undefeated American Athletic Conference season with an 88-65 victory over South Florida.

This was exactly the kind of game the Huskies wanted to start March: reasonably competitive by UConn-vs.-the-rest-of-the-world standards. South Florida is a talented squad and played the Huskies closer than any other league team has this season. Bulls guard Courtney Williams had 26 points and shot 50 percent from the field against a defense that usually specializes in deflating opposing stars.

A-10 – I’m going with the resurgent Colonials – regular season champs for the first time in 7 years. They have Jonquel Jones and you don’t.

ACC – If I were a betting woman, I’d say Notre Dame ’cause I don’t like losing money. But, since I’m NOT venturing anything, I’m going to go with FSU in the upset. And ’cause it would drive the Committee crazy. Writes Mechelle: 

…they’re poised to have a shot at winning their first ACC tournament. OK, admittedly, there’s at least one major obstacle in the way: No. 4 Notre Dame, the ACC’s regular-season champion. And considering some of the upsets this season in the league, it is risky to assume that the Irish and the Seminoles — seeded first and second in the upcoming ACC tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina — are shoe-ins for the final.

But if they do both make it that far, the Seminoles really should have some confidence that they can win the championship.

A-SunFGCU

Big 12 – Stumbles aside, it’s Baylor.

(New) Big East – Arrrrrrgh, it’s the Pirates!

Big Sky – It’s hard to go against Selvig and the Griz, but Debbie Antonelli sure would be happy to see Sacramento State score themselves into the NCAA tournament.

Big South – Liberty has re-established itself as the boss of the conference.

Big Ten Maryland, but Ohio State sure can score….

Big West – Another program being revived: Hawai’i

Colonial James Madison

Conference USA – Western Kentucky. Yet another program revived.

HorizonGreen Bay

MAAC – Quinnipiac

Mid-Amercian: Ohio

MEACHampton

Missouri ValleyWichita State

Mountain West – New Mexico is on a roll, and it’s nice to be able to say, “yet another program revived.

NEC – My mind says Bryant, but I’m feeling like Central Connecticut State is ready to claim a crown.

Ohio ValleyTennessee-Martin

Pac 12 – Easy to call this the most wide open tournament, but I still see Oregon State walking away on top.

Patriot – The Black Knights won’t be a pushover, but American seems to have the upper hand under COY Megan Gebbia.

SEC– Upsets aside, it’s the injuries – or lack thereof – that make the difference: South Carolina.

SouthernChattanooga

Southland Stephen F. Austin

SWAC – Always a battle between Texas Southern and Southern, but TSU takes my vote.

Summitt – It’s bad luck to bet against the ‘wabbits, even though the Coyotes have my attention.

Sun Belt Arkansas Little-Rock

West Coast – This is right up there with the PAC 12 tourney for rivalries and upset potential, but I can’t not go with Gonzaga.

WAC – New Mexico State – conference champs for the first time in 20 years. *all together* “Yet another program revived.”

Did you catch LZ’s piece on Imani McGee-Stafford?

“I didn’t come down here for this,” she says, cutting her eyes to the door each time a new patron enters Moonshine, a popular downtown restaurant, and allows a blast of cold air to sneak inside. “I’m an L.A. girl. I’m about to die out here.”

It’s a funny line, but it’s hard to laugh.

When you know someone has attempted suicide three times before graduating from high school, it’s difficult to find the humor in a reference she makes about her own death. Even in a joke about the weather.

DOH! Disqualified for Pink on Uniforms, Basketball Team Is Reinstated to Playoffs

Until a three-person panel overturned a decision Tuesday, only one thing could keep the Narbonne High School girls’ basketball team in Los Angeles out of this weekend’s city championship game: the color of its uniforms.

With a stirring come-from-behind victory over View Park on Saturday, the Gauchos improved to 23-5, gained a shot at the city title and earned an almost-certain berth in the state tournament.

Then Narbonne was forced to forfeit all that because it had worn the wrong color uniforms without permission.

The Gauchos, whose school colors are green and gold, wore white uniforms with green piping but pink numbers and letters to raise cancer awareness.

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