Things came down to the final game of the regular season, but the South Dakota State Jackrabbits earned a share of the regular season title in the Summit League with a 12-4 record.
Due to the tie-breaking procedures, they earned the 2-seed in the conference tournament, while the IPFW Mastodons were awarded the top seed.
On their journey towards the conference championship, the Jackrabbits had to fight to reach the finals. A three-point win over the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in the quarter-finals was followed by a come-from-behind win over the Denver Pioneers in the semi-finals, in which South Dakota State won by a single point.
The Jackrabbits were unquestionably tired after their tough two games, but they were one win away from the NCAA Tournament. In the top half of the bracket, upset victories led the 5th-seed North Dakota State Bison to the Summit League championship for another instalment in the rivalry between them and the Jackrabbits.
North Dakota State had their sights set on the Big Dance, but the Jackrabbits weren’t about to let their hard work from the previous two games go to waste.
Coming into the 2016 Horizon League Tournament, also known as Motor City Madness, the odds were heavily in favour of the top two seeds in the field. Both the Valparaiso Crusaders and the Oakland Golden Grizzlies received double byes, and were in the semi-finals.
The other teams had to win four games in four days to advance to the NCAA Tournament, and that’s exactly what one of them did.
In the semi-finals, the Crusaders were upset by the fourth-seed Green Bay Phoenix, while the Golden Grizzlies fell to the Wright State Raiders, setting up an unexpected final without the top two teams in the conference.
It may have been unexpected, but the Raiders and Phoenix were two of the top teams in the conference, and earned their spot in the finals. Only one would realize their dream of advancing to the NCAA Tournament and end their drought of appearing in the field of 68.
So far in the 2016 post-season, the top seeds haven’t fared well in the conference tournaments. On Monday night, the Chattanooga Mocs were out to make sure the same thing didn’t happen to them.
The top seed in the Southern Conference was the top team in the conference all season long, and while they only finished a game ahead of their opponent in the tournament final, there wasn’t any doubt as to who the team to beat was.
Chattanooga was matched up against the East Tennessee State Buccaneers in the conference final, and fans in Asheville, NC were excited to see the top two teams in the SoCon meet once more. The Buccaneers were a trendy pick to be in the finals this season, and they lived up to the hype.
Both teams struggled out of the gate, but the Mocs took a sizeable lead into the locker room after the opening 20 minutes. The Buccaneers continued to fight back in the second half, and knocked on the door of the lead on several occasions, but the Mocs never trailed in the final 20 minutes of the contest.
During the regular season, the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks and the Hofstra Pride split the season series at one game apiece, with the two games being decided by a combined 4 points.
To make things a little more intriguing, both teams won inside the other team’s building.
The Seahawks and the Pride finished with identical 14-4 records in the regular season, three games clear of a trio of teams at 11-7. In the conference tournament, the ideal finale was to see UNC-Wilmington and Hofstra do battle one last time.
Basketball fans everywhere rejoiced when both teams advanced to the finals, and they were treated to a great championship battle.
As the case has been several times this post-season, the game needed an extra five minutes to decide a winner. In the overtime frame, the Seahawks pulled away to come away with the conference title.
In what has been a rarity so far in the 2016 post-season, the MAAC Championship saw the top two teams in the conference go head-to-head for the right to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.
The top-seeded Monmouth Hawks were the talk of the town in the NCAA this season, more so for their bench antics as opposed to their on-court play. However, their on-court play put them in the conversation for an at-large berth if they were unsuccessful in the conference tournament.
Like the Hawks, the second-seeded Iona Gaels had their sights set on an NCAA Tournament berth. A win by the Gaels could knock a team off the bubble, so it’s safe to say teams on the brink were pulling for the Hawks to come away on top.
With the top two teams going toe to toe, a game that went right down to the wire was only fitting. Iona was behind by 4 after the opening half, but used the momentum of a second half comeback to seize control in the final minutes.
Aaron Rountree made a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left to push the Gaels’ lead to 3, and AJ English came up with a game-saving steal with 4 seconds left to seal the deal for Iona.
March is the best month of the year in the sporting world for several reasons. Spring Training gets under way, the NHL and NBA both ramp up as the play-offs near, and the NFL free agency period gets under way.
Then, the best of them all, the NCAA Tournament come back into our lives. Hallelujah!
Trying to keep up with all that goes on in the college basketball world leading up to Selection Sunday and the Big Dance can be challenging, especially with all of the conferences holding their post-season tournaments.
We’ve got you covered.
Below, you can find the brackets for every conference championship, and keep tabs on who has secured the automatic bid for each. Recaps of every championship game can also be found after the tournaments have come to a close.