- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

American is headed back to the NCAA tournament a year after receiving the first bid in school history.

The Eagles played suffocating defense to beat Holy Cross 73-57 Friday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd on its campus that included Washington mayor Adrian Fenty.

Tournament MVP Garrison Carr scored 24 points, launching momentum-swinging 3-pointers whenever his team needed them, but there was little doubt the Eagles (24-7) won because they didn’t give conference rookie of the year R.J. Evans and the rest of the Crusaders room to breathe.

American earned its first NCAA Division I berth last year and lost to Tennessee as a No. 15 seed.

In Memphis, Tenn., the fourth-ranked Tigers _ who could very well wind up facing American in the first round if the seeds fall right _ just kept on winning.

Memphis extended its nation-leading win streak to 24, eliminating Houston from the Conference USA tournament.

And Memphis, with 134 wins and counting during the past four seasons, isn’t done yet. The Tigers are a possible No. 1 seed and almost certain of at least a No. 2, especially if they can win their fourth straight conference tournament title.

The Tigers bested Duke’s 133 wins from 1998-2001, a run that culminated in a national championship. Whether the Tigers accomplish that or not, they’ve already made their mark.

“I think 40 years from now, they’ll still be the winningest players in the history of college basketball,” coach John Calipari said.

Top-ranked North Carolina avoided an upset and progressed toward a top NCAA seed by holding off Virginia Tech 79-76 in the ACC tournament at the Georgia Dome. Florida State had to do the same against Georgia Tech, needing a 64-62 win to advance to a semifinal against the Tar Heels.

No. 20 LSU bumped off Kentucky 67-58 in the SEC tournament in Tampa, Fla., jeopardizing the Wildcats’ 17-year streak of NCAA appearances.

Their former coach, Tubby Smith, might be headed for the NIT, too. His Minnesota team lost to No. 7 Michigan State 64-56 at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, leaving the Golden Gophers (22-10) waiting to see if they’ll be good for their first visit to the NCAAs since 2005.

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