Photo courtesy of Utah State athletics
In case you haven’t heard, this is March.
The first two automatic NCAA Tournament bids were clinched on Saturday. As March would have it, the two contests were decided by a total of four points.
For teams on the bubble, it wasn’t a great day. Most had Utah State on the outside looking in, but the Aggies stole a bid with an upset of No. 5 San Diego State in the Mountain West final.
UTAH STATE'S SAM MERRILL WITH THE GAME-WINNER TO UPSET NO. 5 SDSU 😱❄️
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 8, 2020
In the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont ended Murray State’s stranglehold on the conference with a thrilling 1-point win. The Racers had won the previous two tournament titles and hold the conference record with 17 total.
The BACKDOOR CUT
Belmont on top LATE pic.twitter.com/WtYxJrTCGG
— Reporter Liam 🦖 (@Blutman27) March 8, 2020
Here’s a look back on Saturday’s action:
Mountain West: (2) Utah State 59, (1) San Diego State 56
Utah State overcame a 16-point first-half deficit to hand San Diego State just its second loss of the season and clinch a second straight Mountain West title. Malachi Flynn gave San Diego State its final lead with just over a minute to play. After splitting a pair of free throws to tie the game, Sam Merrill knocked down the winning 3-pointer for Utah State with 2.6 seconds remaining. Flynn’s tying attempt at the buzzer was no good. Merrill finished with a game-high 27 points in the win. Flynn paced the Aztecs with 16 points.
Ohio Valley: (2) Murray State 75, (1) Belmont 76
After Murray State’s Tevin Brown hit a pair of free throws to put the Racers up with 11 seconds remaining, Tyler Scanlon made a backdoor cut and layup with less than four seconds to play to win the game for Belmont. That was the Bruins’ only lead over the final 7:56. Nick Muszynski finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting and eight rebounds to lead Belmont. Brown finished with 17 points and six assists to lead Murray State. The victory gives Belmont its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2015.
Sunday’s Championship Slate
Atlantic Sun: (3) Lipscomb vs. (1) Liberty – 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Big South: (5) Hampton vs. (2) Winthrop – 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Missouri Valley: (7) Valparaiso vs. (4) Bradley – 2 p.m. ET (CBS)
Mountain West: Utah State
Ohio Valley: Belmont