West " Virginia, playing on its home floor, became the lowest-seeded team ever to win the Atlantic 10 (n� Eastern 8) Conference tournament when it held off St. Bonaventure 59-56 in the title game. The victory earned the fifth-seeded Mountaineers their third consecutive NCAA tournament berth. "This is a most significant achievement," said West Virginia coach Gale Catlett, "because our team isn't as talented or experienced as others." In the semifinals the Mountaineers upset Temple, which had been undefeated in regular-season Atlantic 10 play, 67-65, as guard Dale Blaney hit a 13-foot jumper with three seconds remaining. West Virginia forward Lester Rowe, the tournament's MVP, had game highs of 22 points and 15 rebounds against the Owls. "When our record was 10-9, a lot of people counted us out," said Rowe, who scored 48 points, made 18 of 18 free throws and grabbed 30 rebounds in three tournament games. "But the team stuck together." Indeed, the Mountaineers were 19-11 after beating the Bonnies. Despite losing, Temple, with a 25-4 record, received its first invitation to the NCAAs since 1979.
Richmond, which has never played in the NCAAs, and Navy, which hasn't done so since 1960, faced each other in the championship game of the ECAC South tournament. With John Newman pouring in 25 points and pulling down four rebounds, the Spiders beat the Middies 74-55 to gain one of 10 spots in the NCAA preliminary round. Newman, a wiry 6'7" sophomore, walked away with the tournament MVP trophy. "It's the kind of thing you dream about," said Newman, who had 34 points and six rebounds in Richmond's 65-57 semifinal win over host James Madison. "You just keep working, and your dreams come true."
Other preliminary-round bids went to Northeastern, which won the ECAC North Atlantic title by defeating Canisius 85-75; Long Island University, which beat defending champion Robert Morris 87-81 in the ECAC Metro final as Blackbird forward Carey Scurry, the tournament MVP, scored 33 points, had 16 rebounds, blocked six shots and made five assists; and Rider, a 73-71 overtime victor over regular-season champ Bucknell in the East Coast Conference championship game.
Kentucky's road to its first SEC tournament title since postseason play was reinstated in 1979, after a 25-year hiatus, was a rocky one. The Wildcats started in spectacular fashion, routing Georgia 92-79 in the quarterfinals as center Melvin Turpin scored 42 points to tie the tournament single-game record set by Cliff Hagan of Kentucky in 1952. But then the Cats needed a pair of free throws from Dicky Beal with two seconds left to beat Alabama 48-46 in the semis and a 15-foot jumper from Kenny Walker as time expired to defeat Auburn 51-49 in the championship game. "We had to have a high national finish to get a seed in the NCAA Mideast," said Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall. "I hope this does it." Hall's hopes were realized as the NCAA selection committee awarded the Wildcats the top-seeded position in the Mideast, a potential boon since Kentucky is the site of the Mideast semis and finals. Auburn, which appeared in the SEC tournament finals for the first time, also will make its NCAA debut. Morehead State picked up an invitation by beating Youngstown State 47-44 in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament final.
After DePaul defeated Marquette 64-49 in Ray Meyer's final regular-season game—his 1,076th—as the Blue Demons' coach, Marquette coach Rick Majerus said, "They look like a Final Four club, and I hope they go all the way. It would be nice for Coach Meyer." At a touching retirement ceremony before the game, Meyer, 70, embraced former UCLA coach John Wooden, who was a high school coach in South Bend, Ind. in the mid-'30s when Meyer was a playmaking guard at Notre Dame. "I could have cried then [during the pregame ceremonies]," said Meyer. "After I got by that, I had it made."
Illinois clinched a share of the Big Ten title with Purdue by beating Wisconsin 81-57. The Boilermakers then picked up their half of the conference championship with a 63-62 defeat of Minnesota. Purdue, which was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten in most preseason polls, will be making its sixth straight postseason appearance.
"This means so much to us," said Kansas reserve center Brian Martin, referring to the Jayhawks' 79-78 defeat of Oklahoma in the Big Eight tournament championship game. "We wanted to get back at them for what they did to us in Lawrence." In the Sooners' 92-82 overtime win on Feb. 22, the Kansas players had accused the Oklahoma players and coaches of taunting them and making obscene gestures at their fans. After the Jayhawks' victory last week, the Kansas players were so subdued that they skipped the traditional cutting down of the nets. "We didn't want to sink to their [the Sooners'] level," said Kansas guard Mark Turgeon.