Legendary Sunday

By Jeff Lippman - March 09, 2008


One legend showed another legend why the SEC's coaches chose the wrong Player of the Year, one conference's top seed completed their wire-to-wire season and another previously unbeaten No. 1's cherry tree was cut down. And in the Big East, an Angel provided the biggest upset of the day.

Don't worry, it will all be explained.

SEC Championship

The most anticipated championship on Sunday lived up to the hype.

Earlier this week the SEC's coaches chose LSU's 6-foot-6 senior center Sylvia Fowles as the conference's Player of the Year instead of Tennessee's Candace Parker. Fowles is perhaps the most dominant center the SEC has ever seen but Parker's game is otherworldly.

Parker will be the No. 1 pick in this year's WNBA Draft and Fowles will be No. 2. But tonight in Nashville, where the Lady Tigers were the No. 1 seed and Parker's Vols the No. 2, it was the Lady Vols of Tennessee and especially Parker's greatness that overcame.

Tennessee picked up its 30th win of the season by topping the Tigers, 61-55, behind Parker's 28 points and three blocks. Fowles recorded a double-double, 19 points and 10 boards, in the losing effort.

To me, Parker proved without a shadow of a doubt that she is the most important player for any team in the nation. Tennessee won the SEC Tournament and Parker scored 16 points more than their next closest scorer - Shannon Bobbitt with 12.

With the Tournament win, the Lady Vols secure a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. LSU will probably grab a two seed.

ACC Championship

North Carolina completed an undefeated ACC season Sunday by stopping archrival Duke, 86-73. It's the fourth straight ACC Tournament title for Sylvia Hatchell and the Tar Heels and it was never really in doubt.

Senior forward Erlana Larkins paced the Heels with 17 points and eight boards, freshman point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid scored 17 as well and RaShanda McCants and LaToya Pringle each had 16.

Duke got solid games from Chante Black and freshman guard Jasmine Thomas, yet the Blue Devils were outclassed by one of the nation's top teams.

I think Maryland would have given the Heels a better game, but they didn't deserve the chance and the Blue Devils did.

With the loss, Duke will most likely grab a three seed, the Maryland victory probably sealed that for coach P and her team. UNC solidified their hold on a No. 1 seed.

Conference USA Championship

Right now teams like Boston College, Auburn and Florida absolutely hate UTEP.

The Miners were 27-2 and undefeated in conference play going into Sunday's C-USA title game against No. 2 SMU. The Mustangs made sure by the end of the afternoon, the NCAA Tournament selection committee would have to include two C-USA teams in the field of 64.

SMU shockingly upset UTEP, ranked No. 18 in the AP, 73-57, and secured the conference's automatic bid to the Big Dance. With the loss, UTEP, who has never before been to the NCAA Tournament, most likely will grab an at-large bid, meaning some other major conference bubble team's dreams will hit a snag.

Big East Quarterfinals
No. 5 Pittsburgh 64, No. 4 Notre Dame 53
No. 1 Connecticut 86, No. 9 DePaul 67
No. 2 Rutgers 56, No. 7 Louisville 57
No. 3 West Virginia 64, No. 11 USF 42

A quick glance at the above scores and you might miss the shocking upset, but it's there, and it's all too real for C. Vivian Stringer.

Forget a No. 1 seed, forget a Big East title rematch with Connecticut, hell, Rutgers might not even get a two seed now.

The Scarlet Knights did the unthinkable, dropping their quarterfinal matchup with No. 7 Louisville Sunday, 57-56, as the Cardinals' Angel McCoughtry came up with a huge strip at the end of the game to seal it for her team. McCoughtry, a surefire All-American, also scored 20 points to lead all scorers.

Pittsburgh's win over Notre Dame and the win for Louisville basically guarantees that the Big East gets seven or eight tournament teams. The Cardinals were on the bubble, but should be in now.

Connecticut had no trouble in their quarterfinal game against No. 9 DePaul and will meet Pitt in Monday's semifinal game. The Cardinals will meet No. 3 West Virginia, who beat No. 11 USF today handily, also on Monday.

Big Ten Championship

Purdue beat No. 9 Illinois, 58-56, to win the Big Ten Tournament crown. The 18-14 Boilermakers, on two-year probation by the NCAA, ended one of the worst Big Ten seasons in history by grabbing the auto bid.

Four teams, Minnesota, Ohio State, Iowa and now Purdue, will most likely make the field of 64, and in my estimation that is four teams too many.

West Coast Championship

More collective gasps by bubble teams after tourney host No. 3 San Diego upset top-seeded Gonzaga in the WCC title game Sunday, 70-66.

Morgan Henderson scored 20 points and point guard Amanda Rego grabbed eight boards and dished out 12 assists as the Toreros grabbed the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA field of 64.

For Gonzaga, at 24-8 they are certainly no lock for the NCAA Tournament. In fact, they probably miss the boat altogether.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 09:44 PM on March 09, 2008
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