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Mike Lopresti | | March 22, 2016

College basketball: Post-season excitement isn't confined to NCAA tournament

  The Gaels' turnover problems allowed NMSU to come back but were able to advance on timely free throws.

Dramatic finishes, inexplicable flop-flops, baffling turns of events. And we’re not even talking about the NCAA tournament.

This March, you don’t need to be on the main stage for madness. Lots of screwball things going on in the other tournaments, too. For instance, did you notice that ...

Ohio State and Akron had 23 lead changes before the Buckeyes won 72-63 in overtime in the first round of the NIT? Had the Zips pulled it off, that would have been Akron’s first win over Ohio State since 1913. And you can’t say they didn’t try. They fired up 42 3-pointers, but hit only nine, and missed every shot in OT.

Duquesne and Omaha checked their defenses at the door for their first round game in the CBI? Omaha scored 80 points ... in the second half. But Duquesne won the game 120-112.

There were 80 free throws taken, 59 3-pointers, and 12 players scored in double figures.

Louisiana Monroe, in a game the Warhawks had 16 steals, blew a 10-point lead in the last two minutes against Furman in the CIT? Feel free to think of Northern Iowa. Daniel Fowler’s off-balance putback of a missed layup won it 58-57 at the buzzer.

Ball State started out its first game in the Tournament trailing Tennessee State 20-3 after 12 minutes, but eventually won in double overtime? And five days later, was behind by 11 points with 1:56 left against Tennessee-Martin in the second round and ended up winning that one in overtime, too?

Saint Mary’s – fifth in the nation in fewest turnovers per game -- blew a 10-point lead in the last four minutes against New Mexico State in the NIT by committing turnovers on five consecutive possessions? New Mexico State finally pulled even with 2.1 seconds to go – then inadvertently fouled Saint Mary’s Joe Rahon on the inbounds play and watched him hit two winning free throws.

Alex Mitola, a Dartmouth graduate in economics and now getting his master’s at George Washington, went 0-for-7 the first 37.5 minutes for the Colonels against Hofstra in the NIT, but then buried a key 3-pointer, and later a game-winning 12-footer with four seconds left?

Ohio senior Treg Setty scored a career-high 30 points, including 12 in overtime to beat Albany 94-90 in the CBI? Just a couple a days before, Setty had taken a thousand extra shots after practice because he wanted to do all he could to prolong his last season.

Washington beat Long Beach State 107-102 in the NIT, when the two teams scored 104 points in the paint?

Winston Shepard got the first triple double in the history of San Diego State basketball against IPFW in the NIT? With the Aztecs breezing to a 79-55 win, Shepard was still in the game at the end, trying to get two rebounds he needed. "Two more rebounds!" the student section chanted. And then, "One more rebound!"

Shepard pulled down his 10th – to go with 10 points and 12 assists -- with 48 seconds to spare. "The game is not about statistics," coach Steve Fisher said, explaining why he left Shepard in the game. "But that’s a great achievement that doesn’t happen often anywhere."

It’s been that kind of season and that kind of March. And not just on the main dance floor.

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