With just one exception, mediocrity took center stage in college basketball as several conference tournaments got underway with the dreaded play-in games.

Only the Atlantic 10 conference held its title game Thursday night. No. 20 Massachusetts beat Temple 69-61 to gain an automatic NCAA berth for the second straight year.Elsewhere it was grunge night as lower-seeded teams played for the chance to meet higher-seeded teams today.

In the Southeastern Conference, the eight worst teams played while the four best sat. In the Big East, the bottom four teams matched up while the six better ones watched. The Atlantic Coast Conference had one play-in game and the Great Midwest had two.

Massachusetts used a 16-0 run in the second half to turn a 40-32 deficit into a 48-40 lead. Temple was held scoreless for 6:50.

No. 6 Arizona 87, Southern Cal 76

At Tucson, Ariz., Chris Mills' 28-point, 16-rebound effort was enough to dash Southern Cal's slim hopes of making the NCAA tournament for a third straight year. The Wildcats (23-3, 16-1) withstood 14 3-pointers by USC (16-10, 9-8). Arizona led by as many as 12 points in the first half; the lead fluctuated between six and 11 points late in the game.

No. 18 Purdue 57, Penn State 49

At West Lafayette, Ind., Linc Darner came off the bench to score 12 points, including eight straight in a 16-0 Purdue run, as the Boilermakers (18-8, 9-8 Big Ten) kept their NCAA hopes alive.

Atlantic Coast Conference

At Charlotte, N.C., eighth-seeded Maryland (12-15) took advantage of the poor shooting of North Carolina State (8-19) to take a 76-55 victory. The Terrapins take on No. 12 North Carolina today.

Big East Conference

At New York, Boston College (16-11) kept its NCAA hopes alive with a 74-70 overtime win against Villanova (8-19). The seventh-seeded Eagles play second-seeded St. John's tonight.

No. 8 seed Georgetown (16-11), whose only hope for an NCAA bid is to win the tournament, easily turned back ninth-seeded Miami (10-17) 67-40.

Great Midwest Conference

At Memphis, Tenn., Marquette's NCAA hopes took a dive as the third-seeded Warriors (20-7) were upset 63-57 by St. Louis (12-16), the No. 6 seed. Fifth-seeded DePaul (16-15) beat fourth-seeded Alabama-Birmingham (17-14) 66-64.

Mid-American Conference

At Columbus, Ohio, Toledo (13-15) beat Ohio 85-84, Western Michigan (17-11) beat Eastern Michigan 65-57, Ball State (25-7) beat Kent 77-57 and Miami of Ohio (21-7) beat Bowling Green 63-50 to advance to the semifinals.

Midwestern Collegiate Conference

At Indianapolis, second-seeded Evansville (21-6) got a scare from seventh-seeded Dayton (4-26) but came away with a 69-66 win. Top-seeded No. 22 Xavier (22-4) beat Loyola 60-50, Duquesne (14-14) edged Detroit Mercy 59-57 and Butler (12-16) topped LaSalle 77-70.

Southeastern Conference

At Lexington, Ky., Tennessee (13-16) ended the NCAA hopes of Auburn (15-11) and moved into the quarterfinals to play host Kentucky tonight. Mississippi (10-17) surprised Florida (16-11) - another NCAA bubble team - 67-62, Alabama (16-11) beat South Carolina (9-18) 87-79 in Steve Newton's last game as coach of the Gamecocks, and Georgia (15-12) earned the right to face Arkansas with a 87-56 pummeling of Mississippi State (13-16).

Southwestern Athletic Conference

At Baton Rouge, La., top-seeded Jackson State (23-7) beat up Prairie View (1-26) 103-70. Alcorn State (8-19) beat Alabama 83-80, Mississippi Valley State (13-14) beat Texas Southern 92-74 and Southern (19-9) beat Grambling 105-91.