1. Gonzaga rolls BYU to win WCC tournament crown
With BYU knocking off Saint Mary’s in Monday’s WCC semifinals, there was a real chance that the conference could earn itself an unexpected NCAA tournament bid. Sixth-ranked Gonzaga did bubble teams across the country a favor Tuesday night in Las Vegas, exploding during the second half and winning the WCC tournament by a 74-54 final score. Killian Tillie was outstanding for the Bulldogs, leading four double-digit scorers with 22 points, and Gonzaga would lead by as much as 32 in the second half.
Mark Few’s team, which has now on six straight WCC tournament titles, made ten three-pointers and also limited BYU to just 35 percent shooting from the field. Gonzaga has the look of a team that can play deep into March, especially if point guard Josh Perkins (11 points, eight assists, no turnovers) continues to play at a high level.
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2. Notre Dame avoids disaster against Pittsburgh
Beating Pittsburgh, which went 0-18 in ACC play during the regular season, wasn’t going to boost Notre Dame’s profile as the Fighting Irish look to solidify their place in the NCAA tournament. A loss to the Panthers would have been a tough hit to absorb, especially with star forward Bonzie Colson back in the fold. Mike Brey’s team struggled in the second half Tuesday afternoon in Brooklyn, but more importantly Notre Dame managed to survive and advance.
With the 67-64 victory Notre Dame gets a shot at Virginia Tech Wednesday night. Back on January 27 the Hokies beat Notre Dame 80-75 in South Bend, but it’s important to note that both Colson and Matt Farrell missed that game due to injury. Those two combined to score 37 points against Pitt. Also taking care of business in Brooklyn was Syracuse, which beat Wake Forest 73-64. Next up for the Orange is North Carolina, giving Jim Boeheim’s team a shot at a win that would do wonders for their NCAA tournament hopes.
3. Four other teams earn NCAA tournament berths
Gonzaga wasn’t the only team to officially earn an NCAA tournament berth Tuesday, with the automatic bid recipients being determined in the Colonial, Horizon, Northeast and Summit leagues as well.
A Joe Chealey layup late in regulation forced overtime, and the College of Charleston would go on to beat Northeastern 83-76 in overtime to win the CAA title. Representing the Horizon League will be Wright State, which as the two-seed avoided the chaos in Detroit and beat Cleveland State 74-57.
In the NEC, LIU Brooklyn handed Wagner its first home loss of the season and is headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. Last but not least, South Dakota State is headed back to the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive season as it beat rival South Dakota 97-87 in the Summit League final. Junior forward Mike Daum (25 points, 11 rebounds) should be a household name by this point, but he’s got plenty of help as well. David Jenkins went off for 29 points and Reed Tellinghuisen added 18 points and 11 rebounds in the win.