Josh Freelove, Lewis Jackson

Report: Four ineligible teams allowed to compete in SWAC Tournament

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According to a report from Tim Gayle of the USA Today, SWAC officials announced on Friday that all 10 teams in the league would be allowed to participate in the 2014 conference tournament despite four teams being banned from the NCAA Tournament due to poor Academic Progress Rates.

The SWAC has seen this sort of issue before, in regards to its conference tournament, and last season saw only seven men’s teams compete in the tournament.

Regular-season SWAC champion Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling and Mississippi Valley State are the four teams facing the NCAA Tournament ban and the four schools were allowed in the conference tournament after SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp had the presidents of the 10 teams in the league vote on whether to include them. According to Gayle, the vote would up 8-2 to include the teams in the conference tournament.

But what about the NCAA Tournament? With the SWAC being a one-bid league, conference officials were concerned that an ineligible team would win the league tournament and the SWAC would forfeit their NCAA Tournament bid — and the postseason money that comes with it.

Thankfully, the NCAA has stepped in and weighted in on the matter, as Gayle explains in the USA Today report:

SWAC officials were worried that an ineligible team winning the tournament might exclude all SWAC teams from the NCAA tournament which, in turn, would forfeit the conference’s right to the postseason money that is divided among participating teams.

But the NCAA took the unprecedented step on Friday of allowing ineligible teams to participate and will simply take the highest-seeded eligible team (currently the Alabama State men and the conference-leading Texas Southern women) should more than one eligible team reach the same level of conference tournament play before being eliminated by an ineligible team.

Otherwise, the eligible team that advances the farthest will be the conference’s NCAA qualifier.

The NCAA also weighed in on the matter in regards to future rulings with a statement:

In response to a request from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees will allow the conference to amend its automatic qualification policy for the 2014 championships only.

The conference tournaments will still determine the automatic berths into both NCAA championships. The eligible team that advances furthest in the conference tournaments will receive the automatic berth to the NCAA championships. In the event of a tie (for example, all tournament-eligible teams are eliminated in the same round), the automatic berth will go to the highest-seeded team.

The process will be revisited when the men’s and women’s basketball committees meet in the summer.

Obviously, this is a bizarre situation — and it certainly doesn’t make the SWAC look good — but it seems as though the NCAA and the league have figured things out.

The big news here is that Southern won’t be making another NCAA Tournament appearance after putting a scare into No. 1 seed Gonzaga last year as a 16 seed. As the regular-season champs, Southern would have been the favorites to make it back to the tournament, but now, Alabama State is the highest-seeded eligible men’s team in the field.

The SWAC will hold its conference tournament March 11-15th at the Toyota Center in Houston.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.