Upsets in mid-major conference tournaments have been all the “rage” this week. On Sunday, regular season champions Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt) and Stony Brook (America East) went down, and the top two teams in the MEAC (Norfolk State and North Carolina Central) met a similar fate on Wednesday.
The Pioneers (21-9) shot 10-of-28 beyond the arc and 45.8% inside of it, and while that percentage may not seem all that bad it is when compared to the Bobcats making 20 of their 29 two-point shots (and going 23-of-28 from the foul line as well).
Joel Wright, a second-team all-conference selection, led the way for Texas State with 32 points (9-of-10 FG, 14-of-16 FT) and seven rebounds. The Bobcats (11-21) advance to take on New Mexico State in the semifinals on Friday night.
Brett Olson (19 points) and Jalen Love (17 points) paced the Pioneers, but a 1-of-7 afternoon from forward Royce O’Neale and their inability to take advantage of a plus-7 turnover margin resulted in Denver falling two games short of the ultimate goal.
As for Michael White’s Bulldogs they entered the WAC tournament on a two-game losing streak (losing at both New Mexico State and Denver), and a defense that resulted in 26 victories was a problem against the Roadrunners as well.
Kannon Burrage led UTSA with 26 points and 13 rebounds, and as a team the Roadrunners shot 54% from the field in the second half. UTSA will take on the Utah State/UT-Arlington winner in the second semifinal on Friday.
Due to their winning the tiebreaker Louisiana Tech gets the automatic bid to the Postseason NIT, which depending on results involving bubble teams around the country could end up squeezing Denver out of the equation.
This is life for programs in one-bid conferences, where the achievements throughout the course of a season pale in comparison when held up against three or four days in March. A painful reality indeed.