THE NATION'S unlikely leading scorer was thisclose to going to a Division III school. Hersey Hawkins' kid is doing his dad quite proud. And can Temple get another win or two (or three) to get back into the NCAAs after losing 22 games last season?

Lace 'em up tight. Here are the last of the conference tournaments to begin:

American

At Hartford, Conn.

FIRST ROUND/Today

8-East Carolina vs. 9-UCF, 3:30

7-Tulane vs. 10-Houston, 6

6-Connecticut vs. 11-South Florida, 8:30

QUARTERFINALS/Tomorrow

1-SMU vs. ECU/USF, 12

4-Temple vs. 5-Memphis, 2:30

2-Tulsa vs. Tulane/Houston, 7

3-Cincinnati vs. UConn/USF, 9:30

SEMIFINALS/Saturday

Times: 3 & 5:30

CHAMPIONSHIP/Sunday

Semifinal winners, 3:15 (ESPN)

NCAA Tourney prospects: SMU and Cincinnati are in. Temple and Tulsa are on the bubble.

Fun facts: The last NCAA Tournament game Larry Brown coached was the 1988 title game win for Kansas . . . This tournament's being held at the XL Center, which is UConn's home court . . . Cincinnati is 16-6 with Larry Davis as head coach. He's filling in for Mick Cronin, who has an arterial dissection that causes chronic headaches. Doctors are treating Cronin and expect him to be able to return to the bench next season.

Big Sky

At Missoula, Mont.

QUARTERFINALS/Today

2-E. Washington vs. 7-Idaho, 1

3-Sacramento St. vs. 6-Portland St., 3:30

4-N. Arizona vs. 5-N. Colorado, 7:30

1-Montana vs. 8-Weber St., 10

SEMIFINALS/Tomorrow

Times: 7:30 & 10

CHAMPIONSHIP/Saturday

Semifinal winners, 9 (ESPNU)

NCAA Tourney prospects: This is a one-bid league.

Fun facts: Montana and Eastern Washington each finished 14-4, but Montana will host this tourney because of a tiebreaker . . . Eastern Washington's Tyler Harvey is leading the nation in scoring at 22.9 per game. Harvey, a junior, was not recruited by any D-I schools. He originally was headed to Division III Whitworth, but when that coach (Jim Hayford) got the Eastern Washington job, he invited Harvey to walk on. Now the kid is getting looks from NBA scouts . . . EWU won at Indiana in November, which could come back to help out bubble teams like Temple if the Hoosiers are left out of the NCAAs.

Big West

At Anaheim, Calif.

FIRST ROUND/Today

1-UC Davis vs. 8-Cal St. Northridge, 3

4-Long Beach St. vs. 5-Hawaii, 5:30

3-UC Irvine vs. 6-UC Riverside, 9

2-UC Santa Barbara vs. 7-Cal Poly, 11:30

SEMIFINALS/Tomorrow

Highest seed vs. lowest seed, 9:30

Middle seeds, Mid

CHAMPIONSHIP/Saturday

Semifinal winners, 11:30 (ESPN2)

NCAA Tourney prospects: This is a one-bid league.

Fun facts: UC Davis is led by Corey Hawkins, who was born in Philadelphia when his father Hersey played for the Sixers. Just like dad, Corey can fill it up from outside. He's averaging 20.6 points per game (seventh in the nation) and his 49.7 percent from three-point land is tops in the country. In Hersey's senior year, he shot 39.4 percent from three . . . The Aggies are coached by Jim Les, a former NBA player who was a teammate of Hersey Hawkins' at Bradley . . . Hawaii's Roderick Bobbitt sliced up Hawaii-Hilo with 10 steals, most by a Division I player in a game this season.

Sun Belt

At New Orleans

FIRST ROUND/Today

5-Texas-Arlington vs. 8-Texas St., 6

6-S. Alabama vs. 7-Ark.-Little Rock, 8:30

SECOND ROUND/Tomorrow

4-La.-Lafayette vs. UTA/Texas St., 6

3-La.-Monroe vs. USA/UALR, 8:30

SEMIFINALS/Saturday

1-Georgia St. vs. Friday early winner, 2

2-Ga. Southern vs. Friday late winner, 4:30

CHAMPIONSHIP/Sunday

Semifinal winners, 1 (ESPN2)

NCAA Tourney prospects: This is a one-bid league.

Fun facts: Georgia State won its second consecutive regular-season title. The Panthers, however, blew a nine-point lead with three minutes left in last year's title game loss to Louisiana-Lafayette . . . Texas State (13-16), the eighth seed, was the only team to win at Georgia State this year.

WAC

At Las Vegas

FIRST ROUND/Today

4-Bakersfield vs. 5-Utah Valley, 5

2-UMKC vs. 7-Texas-Pan American, 7:30

3-Seattle vs. 6-Chicago St., 10

SEMIFINALS/Tomorrow

1-New Mexico St. vs. Thursday first winner, 9

Thursday late winners, 11:30

CHAMPIONSHIP/Saturday

Semifinal winners, 11 (ESPNU)

NCAA Tourney prospects: This is a one-bid league.

Fun facts: New Mexico State went 13-1 and won the regular-season crown by five games. The Aggies have been to the NCAA Tournament each of the last three years, and each time as a 13-seed. They threw a scare into San Diego State last season before losing in overtime . . . Seattle, seeded third here, is the only WAC team to beat New Mexico State. The Redhawks are coached by Cameron Dollar, who was part of UCLA's 1995 championship team. The highlight of UCLA guard Tyus Edney's fullcourt sprint and game-winning shot to beat Iowa State in the tournament that year will be shown dozens of times over the next several weeks. Dollar was the guy who inbounded the ball on the play.

" @EdBarkowitz