Conference tournament scores, winners, losers: Bid thieves make it a bad day to be a No. 1 seed



March Madness and the 2024 NCAA Tournament won’t start for another few days, but the mayhem synonymous with this incredible sport delivered the goods well in advance of Selection Sunday. With conference tournaments wrapping up across the country on Saturday and a few still unsettled into Sunday, we had buzzer-beaters, upsets, Cinderellas, Cinderella-hopefuls and more emerge.

It was laid on thick on the upset front in particular as No. 1 seeds Purdue, Houston and North Carolina all exited in their respective conference tournaments, continuing a wild week of unexpected outcomes. UNC’s loss to NC State on Saturday night in Washington D.C. made the Tar Heels the 21st No. 1 seed to lose in a conference tournament this postseason, the most in at least a decade.

NC State also made some history along the way with its upset win by becoming the first double-digit seed to win a conference tournament in more than a decade. Even more surprising is that No. 11 seed Temple can join the Pack on Sunday in the AAC title game.

What a day, what a weekend, what a sport. Let’s run through all the winners and losers from the day that just wrapped below. But be forewarned: the winners far outnumbered the losers on this special day.

Winner: NC State claims first ACC tourney title since 1987

One day after pulling off a miracle, NC State pulled off the impossible. The 10th-seeded Wolfpack defeated top-seeded North Carolina 84-76 in the ACC Tournament title game to complete a stunning five-wins-in-five days run and clinch the ACC’s automatic bid out of nowhere. It’s the program’s first ACC Tournament title since 1987, when Jim Valvano was in charge of the program. 

D.J. Burns Jr. — in a heavyweight battle with ACC All-Defensive team member Armando Bacot much of the night — scored 20 points. DJ Horne led the scoring effort overall with 29 despite battling foul trouble much of the night. One night after Michael O’Connell’s heroics forced overtime against Virginia, the Wolfpack needed no such drama, pushing the lead to as large as 11 late and holding on from there.

North Carolina’s conference tournament title drought goes on, with its last coming in 2016. The Tar Heels’ offense went cold in the second half especially. RJ Davis (30 points) and Armando Bacot (18) were the only Tar Heels with more than 10 points. — Zach Pereles

On Monday, Long Beach State announced it was parting ways with head coach Dan Monson after 17 seasons but would allow him the courtesy of coaching out the postseason. 

On Saturday, Long Beach State and Monson won the Big West Tournament championship as the No. 4 seed over No. 2 seed UC Davis 74-70 helping the Beach to secure just the second NCAA Tournament appearance of his tenure in an unlikely, but amazing, finish to a crazy week. — Boone

Winner: Wisconsin upsets top-seeded Purdue

Wisconsin took down No. 1 seed Purdue on Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals 76-75 with Max Klesmit serving as the superhero late to help put them over the top in overtime. Klesmit finished with 12 points – including the go-ahead basket – and AJ Storr and Chucky Hepburn combined for 42 in the upset.

Wisconsin lost its first four games in the month of February and closed the regular season with eight losses in its final 11 games, but the Badgers – after taking some lumps figuratively and physically – are finally close to full strength and hitting their stride at just the right time. 

“Excited to watch these guys mature and grow and get better as the season’s going on, and they’re playing their best basketball right now,” said Badgers coach Greg Gard. “This is where you want to be.”

Wisconsin will play No. 2 seed Illinois on Sunday for the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game. — Boone

Winner: Iowa State sends statement in Big 12 title win

No. 2 seed Iowa State didn’t just win — it dominated — in a stunning 69-41 beatdown of No. 1 seed Houston in Saturday’s Big 12 Tournament finale. The Cyclones started hot and then finished even hotter, taking a 7-point halftime lead and growing it to 32 at one point. It marked just the fourth Houston loss on the season and second to the Cyclones, who handed them their first loss of the season in January. Iowa State will now enter Selection Sunday lurking in the shadows as a contender to steal the fourth and final No. 1 seed. — Boone

Winner: Auburn returns to SEC title game

Auburn used an SEC Tournament title in 2019 as a springboard to the program’s only Final Four appearance. The Tigers will be looking to follow that chronology again this season as they prepare to face Texas A&M for the SEC Tournament championship after edging Mississippi State 73-66 in the semifinals. During a February stretch of three losses in five games, it seemed like Auburn may be losing its edge. But coach Bruce Pearl’s club is finding its stride again with one of the nation’s deepest teams looking potent amid the grind of postseason play. Few are deeper than Auburn, and that depth was on display against the Bulldogs as five players reached double figures. — Cobb

Loser: Kent State mistake costs it MAC title

No. 8 seed Kent State took a 61-60 lead on No. 2 seed Akron in the MAC Tournament championship game with six seconds remaining but mistakenly fouled on Akron’s inbounds play thinking it still trailed. The lapse sent the Zips to the free-throw line where they made both and eventually won 62-61 effectively serving as the difference in the game. — Boone

Marquette last season eliminated UConn in the Big East Tournament and went on to win the conference tournament in addition to the regular season title. But the top-seeded UConn Huskies claimed sweet revenge Saturday against the No. 3 seeded Golden Eagles, winning 73-57 to grab its first Big East tourney title since 2011. UConn pulled away in the second half as it is wont to do, throttling Marquette 47-33 in the final 20 minutes. Sophomore big man Donovan Clingan powered the way with 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in the win. — Boone

Winner: Temple makes AAC a two-bid league

The AAC is officially on track to produce an NCAA Tournament bid thief after No. 11 seed Temple stunned No. 2 seed FAU 74-73 in the semifinals. Temple will play No. 4 seed UAB on Sunday in a matchup between two teams with no hopes of an at-large bid. Bubble teams everywhere were hoping that, as the league’s only at-large candidate, FAU would also hoist the trophy as the AAC’s automatic qualifier. Alas, the AAC is destined to send two teams dancing.

Temple’s emergence is particularly stunning since it lost 10 straight games over the course of January and February while starting 1-11 in AAC play. The Owls have also reportedly been under scrutiny for unusual betting activity related to their games. But after five straight wins, first-year coach Adam Fisher has his team on the cusp of making the NCAA Tournament with a sub .500 record. — Cobb

Winner: Saint Peter’s returns to the dance

Saint Peter’s is strutting back to the NCAA Tournament two years after stunning No. 2 seed Kentucky in the first round and becoming the first No. 15 seed to ever reach the Elite Eight. The Peacocks were just the No. 5 seed for the MAAC Tournament but outlasted No. 2 seed Fairfield 68-63 for a third tight win in three days. Only a couple of players from the 2022 run are still on the roster, which is led by second-year coach Bashir Mason. But the mere sight of the Saint Peter’s will inspire angst in the fans of whichever team winds up facing the Peacocks in the first round of the Big Dance. — Cobb

Loser: Texas A&M will have to wait nervously

It seemed like a deep run at the SEC Tournament would be enough to get Texas A&M on the right side of the bubble in 2022, but the Aggies were left out with a 23-12 record on Selection Sunday. The snub surprised many bracketologists and led to a legendary rant from A&M coach Buzz Williams. Two years later, the Aggies find themselves in a similar situation after losing 95-90 to Florida in the semifinals. A Friday night win over Kentucky moved Texas A&M to the right side of the bubble in Jerry Palm’s Bracketology and after Saturday’s games, Texas A&M is the last team in Palm’s projected field of 68. But Williams and the Aggies will have to sweat it out during the Selection Show and hope a strong finish was enough to save them from a five-game losing streak in February.  — Cobb

Winner: New Mexico leaves no doubt

Coming into the week, New Mexico was on the bubble. The only way New Mexico could guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament is by running the table in Las Vegas. The Lobos’ 68-61 win over San Diego State is their first conference title since 2014. New Mexico capturing the Mountain West title also affirms the possibility of the conference getting six teams in the NCAA Tournament. Winning four games in four days is no easy task, and what New Mexico did this week should be celebrated. — Cameron Salerno

Winner: Oregon steals a bid 

Oregon became the latest team on Saturday night to potentially steal a bid away from an at-large contender. The No. 4-seeded Ducks defeated No. 3 seed Colorado 75-68 in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament Championship Game. The Pac-12 could receive as many as four bids on Selection Sunday, and now Oregon is guaranteed to be one of those teams. — Salerno

Loser: South Florida likely won’t go dancing

South Florida made stunning strides in its first season under Amir Abdur-Rahim by winning the AAC regular season title with a 16-2 mark after being picked to finish ninth in the league. But after falling 93-83 to UAB in the Conference USA Tournament semifinals, the Bulls are destined to be left out of the NCAA Tournament. With a 0-0 record in Quad 1 games, South Florida simply lacked the marquee opportunities needed to impress the selection committee. It’s an indictment on the AAC’s basketball bona fides that a team can make it through the entirety of conference play without logging a single Quad 1 opportunity. — Cobb

UMass Lowell’s rise to prominence in the America East over the past two seasons has been impressive for a program that is in just its 11th season at the Division I level. But if the River Hawks are going to take the next step and represent the league in the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need to find a way past Vermont. The Catamounts bested UMass Lowell 66-61 in the America East title game for the second straight year to improve their record against the River Hawks to 3-0 this season. For now, the AEC still runs through Vermont and its coach, John Becker, who will be making his sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in 13 years on the job. — Cobb

Winner: Grambling punches first-ever tourney ticket

In 2012-13, Grambling State went 0-28 and lost every game but its last by double digits. Just over a decade later, the Tigers are going to the Big Dance for the first time in school history after claiming the SWAC Tournament championship with a 75-66 win over Texas Southern. Grambling lost 10 of its first 12 games to open the year but only lost four times in its final 22 games to earn the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth.  — Salerno

Winner: Howard’s Seth Towns is going back to the dance

The oldest player in college basketball is going back to the NCAA Tournament. With Howard’s 70-67 win over Delaware State in the MEAC title game, the Bison punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. Towns, 26, was on the Ohio State team that reached the NCAA Tournament in 2021, and he is set to make his second appearance in the Big Dance next week. Towns started his college career at Harvard in 2016 and eight years later, he will have a chance to end his career on the biggest stage in college basketball. — Salerno





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