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The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 5 Preview

Belmont Murray State

The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Saturday.

Game of the Night: Belmont vs. Murray State
March 9th was circled on all the OVC calenders as soon as Belmont joined the league this past off-season. This game represents the two best teams in the league, the conference’s old guard versus the new elite, the league’s best player against the league’s best team. Belmont may have an outside shot at an at-large bid if they lose today. For Murray State it’s all or nothing. This could be the final time we see Isaiah Canaan compete at the collegiate level.

- Watch this too: MVC Semifinals
This is #ArchMadness at it’s finest. The four best teams in the league converge with some interesting at-large implications and one intriguing back story. Indiana State was once thought to be an at-large candidate, but for them it’s auto-bid or bust. In order to do so, they will have to go through All-American Doug McDermott and company. the other semifinal pits Illinois State against Wichita State in a rematch of the infamous “Jumpkick-gate” game, in which Jackie Carmichael kicked a WSU defender in the chest while going up for a rebound in the waning moments of the game.

Player to Watch: C.J. Garner, LIU-Brooklyn
Blackbirds forward Jamal Olasewere garners all the acclaim, but as NEC Player of the Year it’s deservedly so. However, the Blackbird’s senior guard has been on a tear as of late, scoring 30 points in back-to-back games, and is averaging 23.4ppg in his last five games. LIU-Brooklyn faces stiff opposition in Wagner, and if they want to advance to their third straight NEC championship game, C.J. Garner must have a big night.

Miscellaneous Madness:
Two 20+ loss teams remain alive in postseason play. The Liberty Flames (13-20) have a chance to advance to the Big South Finals with a win over Gardner-Webb today. Out west, Loyola Marymount (11-22) has a chance to shock the world, as they face No. 1 Gonzaga in the WCC semifinals. Before postseason play began, the Lions had not won a game in 55 days. They’ve now won three games in three days and have the opportunity to pull off possibly the biggest upset of the entire college basketball season.

Saturday Schedule:

America East Conference Quarterfinals
Noon - New Hampshire (7) vs. Vermont (2)
2 p.m. - UMBC (6) vs. Hartford (3)
6 p.m. - Binghamton (8) vs. Stony Brook (1)
8 p.m. - Maine (5) vs. Albany (4)

Atlantic Sun Conference Finals
Noon - Florida Gulf Coast (2) at Mercer (1)

Big South Conference Semifinals
Noon - VMI (2N) vs. Charleston Southern (1S)
2 p.m. - Liberty (5N) vs. Gardner-Webb (2S)

Colonial Athletic Association Quarterfinals
3:30 p.m. - Drexel (5) vs. George Mason (4)
6 p.m. - Hofstra (7) vs. Delaware (2)
8:30 p.m. - William & Mary (6) vs. James Madison (3)

Horizon League Semifinals
6 p.m. - Wright State (3) vs. Detroit (2)
8:30 p.m. - Green Bay (4) at Valparaiso (1)

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
2:30 p.m. - Siena (9) vs. Niagara (1)
4:30 p.m. - Canisius (5) vs. Iona (4)
7:30 p.m. - Fairfield (7) vs. Rider (2)
9:30 p.m. - Manhattan (6) vs. Loyola-MD (3)

Missouri Valley Conference Semifinals
2:35 p.m. - Indiana State (5) vs. Creighton (1)
5:05 p.m. - Illinois State (6) vs. Wichita State (2)

Northeast Conference Semifinals
Noon - LIU-Brooklyn (3) at Wagner (2)
2:30 p.m. - Mount St. Mary’s (5) at Robert Morris (1)

Ohio Valley Conference Finals
6 p.m. - Murray State (2) vs. Belmont (1)

Patriot League Semifinals
2 p.m. - Lehigh (3) at Lafayette (2)
4:30 p.m. - Army (4) at Bucknell (1)

Southern Conference Quarterfinals
Noon - Georgia Southern (9) vs. Davidson (1)
2:30 p.m. - Furman (12) vs. Appalachian State (4)
6 p.m. - UNC-Greensboro (10) vs. Elon (2)
8:30 p.m. - Western Carolina (6) vs. Charleston (3)

Summit League Quarterfinals
7 p.m. - IUPUI (8) vs. South Dakota State (1)
9:30 p.m. - South Dakota (7) vs. Western Illinois (2)

Sun Belt Conference Quarterfinals
7 p.m. - Arkansas-Little Rock (5) vs. Florida International (4)
7:30 p.m. - Louisiana-Lafayette (8) vs. Middle Tennessee State (1)
9:30 p.m. - Western Kentucky (6) vs. South Alabama (3)
10 p.m. - Troy (10) vs. Arkansas State (2)

West Coast Conference Semifinals
9 p.m. - Loyola Marymount (9) vs. Gonzaga (1)
11:30 p.m. - San Diego (6) vs. Saint Mary’s (2)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir