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Western Kentucky

You just have to know folks connected to the universities of Florida and Syracuse (and other bubble teams) have been watching the mid-major basketball tournaments with a sense of trepidation, wondering if one of these smaller schools would knock them out of the running for a invitation to the Big Dance.

Well, you can add Sun Belt Tournament champ Western Kentucky to the list of schools who could potentially relegate teams like the Gators and the Orange from the Big Dance to the NIT. By dispatching the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State, 67-57, the 27-6 Hilltoppers, themselves a bubble team, secured their invitation to the NCAA Tournament. In the process, the Hilltoppers may have made the Sun Belt a two-bid conference if 26-6 South Alabama gets the Big Dance nod over the aforementioned bubble teams.

While South Alabama is just as deserving, in all likelihood, the Western Kentucky win simply switched the two teams in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Western obviously has the automatic bid, and the Jaguars will probably join the Floridas of the world, leaving their fate in the hands of an at-large bid.

As for last night’s game, Darrin Horn’s team bounced MTSU by riding the tough-as-nails performance of Jeremy Evans. Evans finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, a great time to get the first double-double for the 2007-08 Hilltoppers.

In other automatic bid action last night, Oral Roberts beat IUPUI, 71-64. Butler, a perennial tournament Cinderella, won the Horizon League championship by beating Cleveland State, 70-55.