This Time Next Year

By Jeff Lippman - March 07, 2008

Friday afternoon in Nashville, fans got a back-to-back chance to see two of the most storied SEC players in the history of the conference play in their last SEC tourney quarterfinal games.

If you didn't realize it, these are your last chances to catch Tennessee junior Candace Parker and LSU senior center Sylvia Fowles dominate in the SEC.

And Friday was no different.

No. 1 seed LSU sent No. 8 Mississippi packing in the quarterfinals, 80-36, behind Fowles' 17th double double of the season and the 80th of her amazing career. She scored 10 points and grabbed 10 boards in just 17 minutes of play. Fowles played 10 first-half minutes because of foul trouble and simply wasn't needed in the second half in LSU's record-setting win.

The 44-point margin of victory is the largest margin ever for the Lady Tigers in the SEC Tournament and doubles their previous high of 22. In fact, it was the third-largest margin in SEC Tournament history.

LSU didn't need a big night from their star to roll into the semis for the seventh consecutive season, and Tennessee might not have needed a big night from Parker to do the same. They got a big night, though.

Parker grabbed her 900th rebound and moved past Kara Lawson into fourth place on Tennessee's all-time scoring list en route to No. 2 Tennessee's 92-61 rout of Florida. Parker scored 26 points, tying an SEC Tournament career high, pouring in 20 points before halftime. She also blocked four shots and grabbed eight boards.

These two superstars will be missed in the SEC. In fact, between the two best SEC teams of the last five seasons, 15 new players will suit up next season for the senior-laden Lady Tigers and Vols.

Tennessee starters Parker, Shannon Bobbitt, Alexis Hornbuckle and Nicky Anosike are all gone after the season as is the entire LSU starting five. There will be a changing of the guard of sorts next year. But LSU and Tennessee aren't done yet.

For Florida, their drubbing at the hands of the Lady Vols effectively eliminates any chances that they earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Coach Amanda Butler should be proud of her team's effort this season, however, and did an excellent job turning them around from a disaster last year into a near tourney team this year in just her first as coach.

The SEC starts its semifinal round on Saturday, but before that happens, LSU and Tennessee must wait and see who their opponents will be. A mute point, if you ask me, because the final of this tourney will be a matchup between the SEC's two best.

No. 4 Kentucky and No. 5 Georgia are locked in heated battle as I type, with the 14-14 Wildcats holding a 10-point advantage at halftime. If Georgia should lose it would be the cherry on top of a largely underachieving season. The Bulldogs would still make the NCAAs with a record of 22-9. Kentucky, on the other hand, had a solid SEC season but would move to just one game above .500 overall, which certainly isn't an NCAA Tournament-caliber season.

Later, No. 6 Auburn meets No. 3 Vandy in an attempt to secure an at-large tourney bid. The 20-10 Tigers need one more win to lock it up, I believe.

Tomorrow morning look for a complete recap of all the SEC action.

ACC Quarterfinals

As Duke and Florida State get underway in Greensboro, three games are complete in the ACC's second round.

No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Maryland breezed past their opponents, Clemson and Boston College, effectively eliminating both of those teams from any chance of an NCAA berth.

The Terps await the winner of that Duke-FSU matchup - a semifinal Maryland should win easily - while North Carolina already knows who it must beat to return to the finals as the defending champs.

No. 4 Virginia continued its top-notch ACC season by beating the five seed Georgia Tech in a tough battle, 52-43, and will meet UNC in the next round. For the Wahoos, they most likely had already secured an NCAA berth with a record of 22-8, but one more win never hurts. It will be tough to beat UNC, but luckily for Debbie Ryan's bunch, they are in the tournament regardless.

Big Ten Quarterfinals
Well, I definitely called it. Check this post as I predicted that the nine seed Illinois would upset top-seeded Ohio State. It happened, 64-58.

The Buckeyes are horrible. The Big Ten is a joke. I really cannot reiterate this enough. At 22-8, I honestly wouldn't put OSU in the Big Dance, although they will definitely make it. To me, no team in this poor conference deserves a berth.

With the top seed out, who will take home the hardware?

After No. 2 Iowa lambasted Michigan today, they are the hottest team in the Big Ten and perhaps the only one who deserves a Tourney look. Iowa moved to 21-9 with the win and will meet No. 3 Purdue Saturday. The Boilermakers have no shot at the Big Dance but defeated Indiana Friday to advance.

Michigan State and Minnesota are still locked in battle. The Spartans and Gophers both need wins desperately to keep their tourney hopes alive.

MAAC Quarterfinals
No. 2 Iona 74, No. 7 Loyola 59
No. 3 Fairfield 67, No. 6 Siena 52
No. 1 Marist 54, No. 8 Canisius 44
No. 5 Saint Peter's 68, No. 4 Manhattan 65

Quarterfinal action is done in Albany as only one lower seed won their game. No. 5 Saint Peter's managed to upend No. 4 Manhattan by three as No. 1 Marist, No. 2 Iona and No. 3 Fairfield all advanced.

Here are the matchups for Saturday's semifinals:
No. 2 Iona vs. No. 3 Fairfield (9:30 a.m.)
No. 1 Marist vs. No. 5 Saint Peter's (11:30 a.m.)

Atlantic Sun Semifinals
No. 2 Jacksonville 68, No. 3 Gardner-Webb 57
No. 1 ETSU 84, No. 5 Lipscomb 64

The A-Sun is already finished with its semifinals as the top two seeds move into Saturday's final. No. 2 Jacksonville won handily, as did No. 1 ETSU by 20 points, as the they collide for the conference's automatic berth.

At 23-8, Jacksonville most likely needs to upset ETSU in the final if they hope to gain entry into the Big Dance. Should JU beat ETSU, however, it would not hinder any major conference team looking for an at-large bid. Although East Tennessee went 14-2 in conference this year, their overall record stands at 20-11, not good enough for the madness of the tourney.

Atlantic 10 First Round
No. 8 Richmond 58, No. 9 Duquesne 56
No. 5 Dayton 57, No. 12 Massachusetts 51
No. 10 Rhode Island 61, No. 7 St. Bonaventure 49
No. 6 Saint Joseph's 71, No. 11 Saint Louis 58

Friday saw the A-10 Tourney get under way. Three out of four top seeds won their games but No. 7 St. Bonaventure dropped their opening round contest against No. 10 Rhode Island, 61-49. No NCAAs for St. Bonaventure.

No. 8 Richmond won their battle with Duquesne and advances to the quarterfinals Saturday against the top seed Temple. No. 5 Dayton handled UMass and meets No. 4 Charlotte. URI meets George Washington, the Colonials should easily beat the Rams. And finally, Xavier collides with Saint Joe's, needing another win to solidify their case for an at-large NCAA berth.

Ohio Valley Semifinals
No. 4 Eastern Illinois 52, No. 1 Southeast Missouri 40
No. 3 Murray State 68, No. 2 Samford 56

The Ohio Valley saw two big upsets Friday as the No. 4 Eastern Illinois and No. 3 Murray State topped No. 1 Southeast Missouri and No. 2 Samford, respectively.

Murray State and Eastern Illinois will meet in Saturday's championship at 11:30 a.m. for an auto bid to the Big Dance. The loser won't be an at-large team.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 07:11 PM on March 07, 2008

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