Bracketology: Saturday March 7, 2009 (Welcome Cornell)

We have more predictions for you today and the first of our daily bracket projections.  Congratulations to the Cornell Big Red for becoming the first team to secure a berth in the NCAA tournament.

SUMMIT LEAGUE

The Favorite: This moment has been brewing for North Dakota St in only its fourth year as a Division-I member.  The Bison are finally a full member of the Summit League they’re making the most out of it.  Led by the explosive Ben Woodside, the Bison are on the verge of their first NCAA Tournament berth.  They’ve rolled to a 16-2 league record and have won 15 out of 16 games.  This is a team that can points on the board in bunches and they’ll be hard to guard in South Dakota this weekend.

The Challenger: Oral Roberts is accustomed to this moment.  The Golden Eagles are attempting to make the NCAA tournament for the fourth year in a row, a feat that hasn’t been done since Valparaiso’s run from 1996-2000.  They’re used to having a home court advantage but now that the conference tournament has been moved to South Dakota, things will be a tad more difficult for them.  Head Coach Scott Sutton will his team prepared nonetheless and they’ll expect to win the tournament.

The Darkhorse: The Oakland Grizzlies are hotter than anyone in the Summit League outside of North Dakota St.  Winners of 7 in-a-row, they’re the only team in the conference that can claim to have beaten both the Bison and the Golden Eagles.  The Grizzlies have ridden the back of deadly three-point shooter, senior Eric Kangas to a third place finish.  If Kangas get’s hot this weekend, the Grizzlies may make they’re second trip to the Big Dance.

The Conference knew what it was doing when it shifted the conference tournament location from Oklahoma to the Dakotas.  The balance of power is shifting and it’ll be on display this weekend.  Oral Roberts has had a great run, but it ends this season.  North Dakota St will claim its first NCAA bid.

BIG SKY

The Favorite: The Weber St Wildcats are looking to extend their dominance of the Big Sky into the postseason.  Big Sky MVP, senior Kellen McCoy, and Freshman of the Year, Damian Lillard, lead the best backcourt in the Big Sky.  The Wildcats have only lost once this calendar year and they don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.  Not only are they winning, but only 3 of they’re 15 conference wins were by single digits.  It’s clear who the top dog in the Big Sky is.

The Challenger: If any team is capable of competing with Weber St, it’s the Portland St Vikings.  Last year’s Big Sky champion is back with first-team all-conference guard, senior Jeremiah Dominguez.  After the experience of making it to last year’s tournament coupled with victories against Boise St and at Gonzaga, The Vikings will not be intimidated by the moment.  They’ll give Weber St all it can handle.

The Darkhorse: The Montana Grizzlies have been one of the most consistent programs in the Big Sky.  The owner’s of the conference’s last NCAA Tournament victory, Montana boasts a proud tradition in the Big Sky.  They enter the postseason having lost 2 of 3, but they’d reeled off 7 in-a-row before hand.  The Grizzlies will be a team to reckon with this postseason.

Weber St and Portland St will receive byes in the quarterfinals as only the top six teams are invited to the Big Sky tournament.  That’s not an extra help they needed because these are clearly the top two teams in the conference.  They’ll meet in the championship game where playing on the Wildcats’ home floor will be the difference and Weber St will return to the dance.

MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC

The Favorite: There’s nothing more painful to a mid-major than to win a regular season title and lose in the conference tournament.  That’s the pain the Morgan St Bears has endured for a full year.  They’ve taken their frustrations out on MEAC opponents this season to the tune of a 13-3 conference record.  They’ve won 10 of 11 and have an upset win at Maryland.  Head Coach Todd Bozeman has turned around this program in just three seasons and has them on the verge of their first trip to the Big Dance.  This is definitely a hungry group.

The Challenger: The second place team in the MEAC, South Carolina St, enters the postseason almost as hot as Morgan St.  The Bulldogs have won 10 of 12 and have turned their season around after a rough start.  In the mid-to-late 90’s, they enjoyed as much success as anyone in the MEAC and are seeking to re-claim that prominence.  Led by senior Jason Johnson, the Bulldogs are a top challenger to the Bears championship aspirations.

The Darkhorse: Morgan St would only have one conference loss had it not been for the Hampton Pirates.  Hampton swept the Morgan St this season proving to everyone in the league that despite its 8-8 record, Hampton is capable of playing with any team in the MEAC.  Hampton has been gold standard this decade and is attempting to return to the tournament for the first time in three years.

The MEAC tournament is usually one of the most unpredictable conference tournaments in the country.  As was the case last year when Coppin St won the tournament from the #7 seed, this tournament is up for grabs.  That being said, Morgan St has been stewing on last year’s disappointment and it is ready to boil over.  The Bears are going to make history and head to their first NCAA Tournament.

Last Four In: Rhode Island, New Mexico, Michigan, South Carolina

Last Four Out: San Diego St, Arizona, Maryland, Northwestern

EAST

1.Connecticut16.Jacksonville Philadelphia, PA

8.Arizona St9.Minnesota

5.LSU12.New Mexico Miami, FL

4.Clemson13.Virginia Commonwealth

6.Illinois11.Dayton Portland, OR

3.Washington14.North Dakota St

7.Florida St10.Creighton Minneapolis, MN

2.Oklahoma15.Weber St

WEST

1.Duke16.Cal St Northridge Greensboro, NC

8.BYU9.Oklahoma St

5.Purdue12.Siena Miami, FL

4.Villanova13.Binghampton

6.Gonzaga11.Utah St Boise, ID

3.Missouri14.Miami(OH)

7.Marquette10.Ohio St Kansas City, MO

2.Memphis15.Cornell(Ivy)

SOUTH

1.Pittsburgh16.Radford/Alabama St Dayton, OH

8.Texas9.Boston College

5.California12.Michigan Portland, OR

4.Xavier13.Western Kentucky

6.West Virginia11.South Carolina Philadelphia, PA

3.Wake Forest14.American

7.Butler10.UNLV Dayton, OH

2.Michigan St15.Robert Morris

MIDWEST

1.North Carolina16.Austin Peay Greensboro, NC

8.Texas A&M9.Penn St

5.Syracuse12.Davidson Boise, ID

4.UCLA13.Rhode Island

6.Tennessee11.St. Mary’s Minneapolis, MN

3.Kansas14.Stephen F. Austin

7.Utah10.Wisconsin Kansas City, MO

2.Louisville15.Morgan St

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