Smaller schools look to make big impact in NCAA Tournament

Lane Penley, Staff Writer

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The NCAA basketball tournament is back, and it is almost time to fill out your brackets and watch hours of basketball. The regular season has had its ups and downs for many teams this year, and we are now approaching Selection Sunday, where the teams and seeds for the tournament are officially decided. Although 64 teams get into the tournament, it is no easy task for a team to make it in. What is even more impressive is when smaller conferences such as the SoCon or Big South send great basketball teams to the tournament. The SoCon conference tournament wrapped up Monday with Wofford defeating UNC Greensboro 70-58, guaranteeing them a spot in the prized tournament. Look for 3-pt shooter Fletcher McGee to shine and possibly take the Terriers deep into the tournament. They will more than likely have a pretty good seed also, probably 9 or 10.

Another possible Cinderella story was St. Mary’s defeating No. 1 Gonzaga Tue. night 60-47. The Gaels had to play a nearly perfect game and keep the Zags away from the basket in order to win, and they did exactly that. The Zags had not lost in the West Coast conference before that game and averaged 92 points per game. They had also won the conference the past six years in a row before this year, with their last defeat also coming from St. Mary’s back in 2012.

It is always a feel-good story when a team earns its first trip to the tournament. The Gardner-Webb Bulldogs out of Boiling Springs, NC officially locked themselves in the tournament on Sunday winning the Big South tournament by beating Radford 76-65. The Bulldogs are obviously no strangers to winning games, so let’s see if forward Daniel Laster can keep the momentum rolling for them into the big dance.

The tournament kicks off with Selection Sunday on March 17, with the play in games beginning on the 19.

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