Beltway Basketball Beat: Bracket Racket II — Survival for Towson, Navy and UMB

Six days until Selection Sunday. And there almost wasn’t a next day for Navy as the Midshipmen were taken to overtime by Boston University before prevailing 85-80 in Annapolis.

It’s the first trip to the Championship Game in 21 years for the Mids, a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1998. UMBC also needed overtime to advance, beating UMass-Lowell 93-85 in the America East Quarterfinals. First-year coach Jim Ferry led Long Island University to the NCAA’s twice while with the Northeast Conference school, and is now two wins away from getting the Retrievers there for the first time since they upset overall No. 1 Virginia in 2018. Towson didn’t need overtime, but the Tigers started slow against No. 9 seed Northeastern (trailing by as many as 10) and saw a 12-point second half lead shrink to one before putting the Huskies away late 68-61.

On the less than ideal side of the weekend, VCU and Virginia Tech both lost their regular season finales Saturday to damage already murky at-large hopes: ESPN put the Hokies in their “First Four Out” group and the Rams are listed in that category on CBS sports’ online ranking. George Mason, George Washington and Richmond aren’t on the bubble but all three schools dropped their regular season finales. Maryland (15-16, 7-13 Big Ten) missed a chance to finish over .500 in the regular season as their rally at Michigan State came up short and Georgetown (6-24, 0-19 Big East) set school and Big East records for losses in a season.

Tickets Punched: Longwood wins the Big South by beating Winthrop 79-58, securing the Lancers’ first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Farmville, Virginia, school has been in Division I for just a little over a decade and was once a “buy-game punchline” as they seemingly played all the major locals on the road year after year. Now they’re going dancing. Loyola-Chicago got a parting gift as they beat Drake to win the Missouri Valley Conference. While the Ramblers leave for the Atlantic 10 this offseason, any wins they get in the NCAA’s (and they’ve made two Sweet 16’s and a Final Four in the last four years) go toward the MVC account for future compensation.

Today’s Bids: two berths will be earned on Southern Conference regular season winner Chattanooga faces Furman at 7 p.m. for the tournament championship. The Moccasins lead current members with 11 tournament titles (most recently in 2016), while the Paladins won their six SoCon tourneys from 1971-80. Meanwhile March Mayhem has taken center stage in the Sun Belt Conference, with No. 3 seed Georgia State facing No. 8 Louisiana. The Rajun’ Cajuns last made the NCAA’s in 2014 when they went by “Louisiana-Lafayette” (they’ve also made the Tournament as “University of Southwest Louisiana”). The Panthers have kept the same name throughout their Division I existence and last won the Sun Belt in 2019.

Today’s Game:

Colonial Athletic Semifinals: Towson (25-7) plays Delaware (20-12) at 6 p.m. in Southeast Washington at the Entertainment & Sports Arena. These two teams have already met twice with the games ending on different days than were originally scheduled: the Jan. 4 meeting was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns (won by the Tigers Jan. 24) and the Jan. 27 game was suspended in the second half due to an unplayable floor at SECU Arena (completed Feb. 28 with the Tigers winning after outscoring the Blue Hens 40-19 over the final 18:42 of regulation). Towson won its game thanks to hot shooting by Nicolas Timberlake (5-7 from three and 23 of his 25 points came in the second half) while Delaware advanced due to solid play in clutch time Jyare Davis (17 points with 10 rebounds, including nine points in the final six minutes of regulation).

Next Time on the Court:

Wednesday: UMBC hosts Hartford at 7 p.m. in the America East Semifinals, Virginia Tech plays the winner of Clemson/NC State at 7 p.m. in the ACC Second Round, Navy plays at Colgate in the Patriot League Championship Game at 7:30 p.m., Howard takes on Coppin State at 8 p.m. in the MEAC Quarterfinals, Virginia meets the Louisville/Georgia Tech winner at 9:30 p.m. in the ACC Second Round, and Georgetown plays Seton Hall at 9:30 p.m. in the Big East First Round.

Thursday: George Mason plays Fordham at noon in the Atlantic 10 Second Round, George Washington meets UMass at 6 p.m. in the Atlantic 10 Second Round, Maryland faces Michigan State at 6:30 p.m. in the Big Ten Second Round, and Richmond takes on the winner or Rhode Island/Duquesne at 8:30 p.m. in the Atlantic 10 Second Round.

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Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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