Bracket Gets A Boost

Vermont's David Hehn, left, and Germain Nijilia celebrate their win over Boston in the America East Championship final Saturday, March 15, 2003, in Boston. Vermont won 56-55. AP

College basketball's conference tournament week came to a thrilling crescendo Saturday as a bevy of teams from around the country qualified for the NCAA tournament.

Here's a recap of some of the days most exciting moments:

FIRST TIMERS

David Hehn hit a 10-foot jumper with 5.6 seconds left to give Vermont a 56-55 win over Boston University in the America East finals and its first NCAA tournament bid.

TICKETS PUNCHED

No. 20 Louisville beat Alabama-Birmingham 83-78 for the Conference USA tournament championship. ... South Carolina State rallied to end Hampton's two-year reign as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament champion with a 72-67 win. ... No. 22 Dayton beat Temple 79-72 to win the Atlantic 10 tournament. ... Fifth-seeded Oregon became the lowest seed to win the Pac-10 tournament when the Ducks knocked off USC 74-66. ... Texas Southern defeated Alcorn State 77-68 to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament. ... Central Michigan beat Kent State 77-68 to win the Mid-American Conference tournament. ... No. 5 Pittsburgh routed Connecticut 74-56 to win its first Big East Championship. ... Tulsa beat Nevada 75-64 Saturday night to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament. ... Colorado State beat UNLV on the Rebels' home floor to take the Mountain West Conference tournament final, 62-61.

SWINGS

Sixth-seeded Colorado State, which had a seven-game losing streak during conference play, upset UNLV on its home court to win the Mountain West Conference tournament. The Rams trailed by 10, but finished the game on a 14-3 run, holding UNLV scoreless over the final 4:16. ... In the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship game, top-seeded South Carolina State trailed 26-6 after just 7:26 and had nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes. The Bulldogs cleaned up their play and went on to defeat Hampton 72-67.

TOURNEY TOUGH

Louisville coach Rick Pitino's teams have won 21 of their last 23 games in league tournaments, including Saturday's 83-78 win in the Conference USA championship game. Pitino went 17-1 in the Southeastern Conference tournament when he was at Kentucky from 1989-97.

FLYING AT HOME

No. 22 Dayton completed a 17-1 run at home with a 79-72 win over Temple in the final of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, which was played at UD Arena. The Flyers earned their first NCAA tournament bid since 2000.

  • John Esterbrook

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