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HBCUs ‘Dancin’ with the stars’

 

LUT WILLIAMS

BCSP Editor

 

    Two black college men’s basketball head coaches will take teams into the NCAA Div. I Tournament this week for the first time while two women’s head coaches are making return trips.

    What head coaches Sean Woods of Mississippi Valley State, Anthony Evans of Norfolk State, Toyelle Wilson of Prairie View A&M and David Six of Hampton all have in common however – other than winning their conference tournament championships last week to earn tickets to the NCAA “Big Dances,’ – is that they’ll have match-ups in the NCAA tournament against higher seeds from the Power Six conferences.

    In that sense, they’ll all be ‘Dancin’ with the Stars.’

    At least, that’s what head coach Sean Woods and his 21-12 SWAC Tournament champion Delta Devils hope to do. They first had to tangle with Sun Belt Conference champion Western Kentucky Tuesday (6:30 p.m.) in Dayton, Ohio in one of four first-round games.

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    If the Delta Devils can got by WKU (15-18), they will face 32-2 Kentucky, the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed out of the South Region on Thursday (6:50 p.m.) as a 16th seed. No team has more ‘star power’ than Kentucky who has been ranked atop the national polls for the latter half of the season.

    The fact that Woods once starred for the Wildcats (1988-92) should add spice to the match-up.

    This will be the fifth NCAA appearance for the Delta Devils, the first since 2008, and the first under Woods, who took over as head coach from Lafayette Stribling after the 2008 season.

    After winning their first MEAC Tournament title and earning their first automatic NCAA Div. I berth, Evans and his 25-9 Spartans (25-9) have a date with perhaps the hottest team in the country, 30-4 Missouri, in the West Region Friday (4:40 p.m.) in Omaha, Nebraska.

    Missouri won the Big 12 Tournament championship over Baylor (a No. 3 seed in the West), who upended Kansas (a No. 2 in the Midwest) in the Big 12 semifinals. Many are picking the Tigers, coached by former Miami head man Frank Haith, to make it to the Final Four and perhaps cut down the nets.

    Evans, in his fifth year leading the Spartans, believes his team is tournament ready. They have wins over Drexel, a team many believed should have made the field and over NCAA participant LIU-Brooklyn. The Spartans also have two losses to Marquette, a No. 3 seed in the West, by 31 points on the road and by two on a neutral court.

   Wilson won her second straight SWAC Tournament title in as many years since taking over from Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. She won this year’s title as a fifth-seed after taking the championship last season as a second seed.

   The Lady Panthers have the unenviable task of taking on Big East Tournament champion Connecticut (29-4) the top seed in the Kingston Region on Saturday (1.30 p.m.) in Bridgeport, Conn. The Lady Huskies have won three of the last four national titles and are hungry after being dethroned last year by Notre Dame.

     This is Prairie View’s fourth appearance overall in the tournament. Of the four, Six, in his third year leading the Lady Pirates, has the most experience, leading his troops into the tourney for the third straight year.

    Hampton (26-4) enters this year as a 16th seed and will face No. 1 seed Stanford (31-1) in a Fresno Region first round game in Norfolk. Va. on Saturday (1:30 p.m.). Stanford has made it to the women’s Final Four in each of the last four seasons.

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    Hampton got the highest seed ever for an MEAC women’s team last year when the Lady Pirates were seeded 13th in the Spokane Region. They battled No. 4 Kentucky before succumbing in overtime, 66-62. Savannah State (21-11), the MEAC men’s regular season champ who was knocked out in the quarterfinal round of the league tournament, earned an automatic berth to the postseason NIT and played at Tennessee (18-14) Tuesday night.

     Howard (24-8), the second seed in the MEAC women’s tournament who lost to Hampton in the championship game, earned a postseason WNIT berth and travels to Virginia (22-10) for a first round game Thursday.

SWAC regular season women’s champ Mississippi Valley State (19-13), also earned a WNIT bid and plays at Tulane (22-10) Thursday night.

     Tennessee State (20-12) who lost to Murray State in the finals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, is one of 30 teams playing the College Insider Tournament (CIT). The Tigers played at Mercer (22-11) Tuesday night.

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