Before the NCAA Tournament brackets were revealed on Sunday night, three other teams earned conference tournament victories. First, the Cincinnati Bearcats escaped with a 56-55 win over the 21st-ranked Houston Cougars for the AAC Tournament Title. The win is their first conference tournament title since they won the Conference-USA crown in 2004. The eighth-ranked Bearcats went ahead for good on a Gary Clark free throw with 4.3 seconds left, ending a defensive-filled second half that saw a combined 39 points. Clark finished with 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and also grabbed 12 rebounds in his team's 30th win of the year. The Cougars were held to 18 points in the final 20 minutes, as they shot just 20 percent from the floor, including 0-for-10 from three-point range. Elsewhere, the Kentucky Wildcats put their tough regular season behind them and got back to what they normally do come the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats took down the 13th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, 77-72, for their fourth straight SEC Tournament Championship. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 29 points to lead the Wildcats, who made half of their shots on the day, including 43 percent from beyond the arc. It was the Wildcats' 31st SEC Title overall, despite their four-seed being the lowest seed in the John Calipari era. Kentucky did lead by as many as 17 in the first half, but the Volunteers cut their deficit to five by halftime. The two sides were even in the second half, which played in the Wildcats' favor, as they prevented Tennessee from winning their first title in 40 years. Gilgeous-Alexander clinched the tournament MVP award by hitting two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to seal the win, as he shot 10-of-16 on the day with seven rebounds and two steals. Admiral Schofield led the Vols with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a losing effort. And even without Steph Curry, the Davidson Wildcats are doing big things, as they earned the Atlantic-10 Championship with a 58-57 win over the 25th-ranked Rhode Island Rams. Kellan Grady led the way with 17 points for the Wildcats, who have not won an NCAA Tournament game since Curry was wearing the red uniform. The freshman Grady's field goal with 1:14 left ended a drought for Davidson, which helped them hold off the Rams down the stretch. E.C. Matthews led Rhode Island with 20 points, as that team is still in the NCAA Tournament despite the loss. Davidson would not have gotten in with a loss, as they look to repeat their last successful Tourney appearance when they beat Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin, before falling to Kansas in the Elite Eight in 2008.
Warriors, Cavaliers Fall on National TV
The teams that represented the NBA in the Finals the last few years are in opposite trends in their conferences, but suffered the same result on Sunday. First, the Golden State Warriors were still without Steph Curry, as they fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 109-103. The Warriors, who would've clinched a playoff spot with a win, were led again by Kevin Durant, who had 39 points and 12 rebounds, but the back and forth game favored the T'Wolves in the end. Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves, as they outscored the Warriors by 13 in the second half. They did hold a 10-point lead after 12 minutes, but Golden State dominated the second quarter, 38-21, to hold a lead at halftime. Despite Durant's big numbers, he did shoot just 11-of-32 on the day, as his team fell again after falling, 125-108, against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. Meanwhile, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the four-seed in the East with a 127-113 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Julius Randle had a career-high 36 points, along with 14 rebounds and seven assists, as the Lakers out-shot the Cavs, 50 percent-46 percent. Isaiah Thomas chipped in 20 points, nine assists, and five rebounds against the team that traded him away last month. This win comes after there was a billboard spotted in L.A. that said "LABron," as they hope to lure James to Hollywood this off-season. James finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds against what could be his future team, as his current squad has now lost four of their past six.
Rockets Clinch Playoff Spot Without Harden
The Houston Rockets played without James Harden due to knee soreness on Sunday, but that didn't stop the NBA's best team from clinching a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Eric Gordon had 26 points, while Chris Paul added a double-double of 24 points and 12 assists in a 105-82 blowout of the lowly Dallas Mavericks. Harden watched from the sideline as his team pulled away in the third quarter, as they hit their first six three-point attempts after halftime, and used a 22-10 run to distance themselves after leading by just one at the break. Paul scored or assisted on the quarter's first 20 points, as the team outscored Dallas, 32-16, in those 12 minutes. The Rockets were moving on after having their NBA season-long 17-game win streak snapped at the hands of the Eastern Conference's best Toronto Raptors on the road Friday night. The Mavs shot just 35 percent on the night, as they were led by Dwight Powell's 20 points, which was just one point shy of his career-high. The Rockets are expected to have Harden back when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night. The Mavericks move on to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks on Tuesday.