INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Atlantic Region’s road to this season’s NCAA Division II Elite Eight men’s basketball championship will once again run through the campus of West Liberty University.
For the second straight year, Coach Jim Crutchfield’s West Virginia Conference tournament and regular-season champions are the No. 1 seed and tournament host for the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament, which tips off with four quarterfinal games at the ASRC on Saturday.
The semifinals are set for Sunday night with the Atlantic Region championship game scheduled for Tuesday, March 13.
The NCAA made the official announcement late Sunday night through a live webcast introducing the entire 64-team NCAA Division II championship tournament field. West Liberty is one of eight schools chosen to host a regional event this weekend with the regional champions advancing to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight March 21-24 at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Ky.
The Hilltoppers made their first trip to the Elite Eight a year ago after claiming the school’s first regional title. West Liberty routed Anderson (S.C.), 113-95, in the national quarterfinals at Springfield, Mass. before coming up short in a 110-101 semifinal loss to BYU-Hawaii.
The Black-and-Gold’s first step on this year’s regional tournament trail comes on Saturday when the Hilltoppers (29-2) take on No. 8 seed East Stroudsburg (20-11) – the surprise PSAC Tournament champion – in a regional quarterfinal. It’s a rematch of a mutual season opener that saw West Liberty pull out a 96-92 victory against ESU in a tipoff tournament at Shippensburg.
West Virginia Wesleyan (21-8) earned an at-large bid as the No. 4 seed after losing to West Liberty in the WVIAC Tournament semifinals. The Bobcats’ quarterfinal opponent is No. 5 seed Winston-Salem State (21-8), the CIAA Tournament champion.
The West Liberty/East Stroudsburg winner will meet the Wesleyan/Winston-Salem winner in Sunday’s regional semifinal.
The other bracket finds Shaw, N.C. (25-3) holding down the No. 2 seed despite being upset by Winston-Salem in a CIAA Tournament semifinal. The Bears will take on No. 7 seed Indiana, Pa. (23-5), which earned an at-large bid from the PSAC and has split the last two Atlantic Regional championship games with West Liberty.
Two more WVIAC teams round out the regional field in No. 3 seed Charleston (26-6), which dropped a 93-90 overtime thriller to the Hilltoppers in Saturday’s WVIAC Tournament championship game, and No. 6 seed Wheeling Jesuit (21-9), the only team in the region to beat West Liberty this season.
The West Liberty University athletic department will announce tipoff times for all games and complete tournament ticket information on Monday.
NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball
Atlantic Region Tournament
Saturday, March 10
(at West Liberty, W.Va.)
No. 1 WEST LIBERTY (29-2) vs. No. 8 East Stroudsburg, Pa. (20-11), tba
No. 4 W.Va. Wesleyan (21-8) vs. No. 5 Winston-Salem State, N.C. (21-8), tba
No. 3 Charleston (26-6) vs. No. 6 Wheeling Jesuit (21-9), tba
No. 2 Shaw, N.C. (25-3) vs. No. 7 Indiana, Pa. (23-5), tba
Sunday, March 11
WEST LIBERTY/East Stroudsburg winner vs. W.Va. Wesleyan/Winston-Salem State winner, tba
Charleston/Wheeling Jesuit winner vs. Shaw/Indiana winner, tba
Tuesday, March 13
Sunday’s winners, tba