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Saturday, March 5, 2011
Counting it down: Title field cut to 253

By Pat Forde

What are you doing here, East Tennessee State?

And you, Portland?

And you, James Madison?

We certainly didn’t expect to see you guys here on the national championship discard pile this soon. All three of you won at least 20 games in the regular season, yet all three were stunned Friday night in conference tournament play by teams with losing records.

ETSU (22-11) was beaten by 14-18 North Florida in the Atlantic Sun semifinals. Portland (20-11) was beaten by 20-loss Loyola Marymount. James Madison (21-11) went down to 21-loss William & Mary.

And then there was Murray State -- Ohio Valley Conference No. 1 seed, defending OVC champion and a team that won a game in the NCAA tournament last year. The Racers at least lost to a team with a winning record in Tennessee Tech, but nobody expected them to be eliminated before the tournament final.

Those were the four most surprising results in a Friday brimming with upsets. All told, lower seeds won eight of 22 conference tournament games. The Friday roster trim of national title contenders, from 275 to 253, was the biggest and most shocking cutdown of the week.

The nightly roll call of the defeated:

Atlantic Sun: Mercer, beaten by Belmont; ETSU, beaten by North Florida.

Colonial: UNC-Wilmington, beaten by Georgia State; Towson, beaten by Drexel; James Madison, beaten by William & Mary; Northeastern, beaten by Delaware.

Horizon: Detroit, beaten by Valparaiso; Wright State, beaten by Cleveland State.

Metro Atlantic: Niagara, beaten by Marist; Manhattan, beaten by Siena.

Missouri Valley: Southern Illinois, beaten by Missouri State; Northern Iowa, beaten by Creighton; Bradley, beaten by Wichita State; Evansville, beaten by Indiana State. (Three of the Valley quarters were decided by a total of seven points, two on shots in the final two seconds. They don’t call it Arch Madness for nothing.)

Ohio Valley: Murray State, beaten by Tennessee Tech; Austin Peay, beaten by Morehead State.

Southern: Davidson, beaten by UNC Greensboro; Citadel, beaten by Elon; Georgia Southern, beaten by Appalachian State; Samford, beaten by Furman.

West Coast: Portland, beaten by Loyola Marymount; San Diego, beaten by Pepperdine.

On Saturday, actual bids are handed out in three conferences (four if Princeton wins at Harvard), and plenty of other teams will join the ranks of the dearly departed. We’ll wave them all good-bye here in the Nation blog tomorrow night.