WASHINGTON — Thursday of championship week means there’s wall-to-wall basketball from noon until midnight. And unlike next week, when the NCAA Tournament provides us with 16 games on Thursday and Friday, eight tilts begin before 1:05 p.m.
The next two days will be front-loaded and backloaded, with brief breaks in the middle. Bubbles will be burst and votes of confidence will be handed out by athletic directors as if they were mints at the host stand of a restaurant.
Minimal movement for the locals: Maryland is still a 6- or 7-seed, while Virginia is a solid 5 and Virginia Tech is a 7, 8 and 9 in the CBS, ESPN and USA Today models respectively. VCU is a 9- or 10-seed, but the Rams are likely the one team in this pack with the best chance to give itself a boost with a conference championship.
Automatic Bid Clinched
Bucknell bounces Lehigh, 81-65, to win the Patriot League championship, despite 22 points and 17 rebounds from Tim Kempton. The senior was an absolute nightmare for the rest of the conference to contend with during his career, and hopefully he gets a good run in the NIT, CBI or CIT.
Bids up for grabs Thursday night
Nothing. One nice aspect regarding Championship Week is the trickle of bids awarded from Sunday to Wednesday. And then nothing. How does the NCAA not mandate that the Horizon, CAA, MEAC or SWAC time their tourney to wrap up on Thursday or Friday, so you can have one automatic berth awarded each night?
Done for the year
Georgetown (14-18) wraps up its winter of discontent with a 74-73 loss to St. John’s in the first round of the Big East Tournament, despite holding the Red Storm scoreless for the final 3:03. A missed free throw, an off the mark jumper and layup gone bad in the final minute of regulation sealed their fate, while Rodney Pryor ends his Hoyas career with 17 points.
For those yearning for the days of the old Big East, you kind of got it in the form of a second half skirmish between Georgetown assistant Patrick Ewing Jr. and St. John’s coach Chris Mullin. Whither Michael Graham?
Just to show you every school’s misery is relative: While the Hoyas year wraps up with a six-game losing streak, the Red Storm snapped a six-year Big East Tournament losing streak. At least Georgetown avoided the quarterfinal drubbing Villanova gave St. John’s.
Thursday night’s games
Atlantic 10 Tournament second round: George Mason (19-12) faces Fordham (13-18), NBC Sports Network. The Patriots stumble into March with four losses in five games, while the Rams have lost three straight. Mason took the regular-season meeting between the two schools Feb. 11, a game in which they held the Rams’ primary weapon, Javontae Hawkins, to nine points. Marquise Moore notched 13 rebounds in that game, but when doesn’t he?
MEAC Quarterfinals: Howard (9-23) plays Morgan State (14-15). The league that runs its men’s and women’s tournaments concurrently has the Bison coming into this one after two days off. The Bison are coming off a first-round win over Coppin State, and beat Morgan State during the regular season. The Bears boast 6-foot-5 guard Tiwian Kendley, who averages 21 points per game.
ACC Quarterfinals: Virginia Tech (22-9) meets No. 16 Florida State (24-7). The Seminoles rank second in the conference in scoring and shooting, while the Hokies lead the league in three-point shooting and scored 99 points in Wednesday night’s win over Wake Forest. Tech didn’t have Seth Allen for the regular-season meeting between the two schools, but they did get 22 points from Chris Clarke, who won’t be able to suit up this evening.
Atlantic 10 Tournament second round: George Washington (18-13) meets up with St Louis (12-20), NBC Sports Network. The Colonials have won five straight, while the Billikens had to rally from 18 points down to defeat last-place Duquesne in the first round.
Freshman Elliott Wellmer scored 17 points Wednesday night; he tallied 18 in a loss against GW Jan. 28. Tyler Cavanaugh also had 18 in that game, and the senior is averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds over his last four outings.
ACC Quarterfinals: No. 21 Virginia (22-9) plays No. 22 Notre Dame, ESPN. One thing never changes: The ACC will always have a late game listed with a 9 p.m. tipoff that never actually gets underway until 9:45 or so. Thank goodness the subway system up there is open after 11:45 p.m.
The Fighting Irish boast the conference’s best rebounder in Bonzie Colson (his name is worth at least 1.25 boards a game), so Jack Salt will need to have one of his better efforts this winter (perhaps he was just warming up last night with four points, two rebounds and four fouls in 13 minutes against Pitt).