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SIAC Tourney underway in Birmingham

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LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor
Virginia State’s men and Virginia Union’s women took home CIAA basketball tournament championships on Saturday. On Monday, play began in the SIAC Tournament at the Bill Harris Arena at the Birmingham Crossplex.

SIAC
The men and women of Benedict, the men of Stillman and the women of Kentucky State are the top seeds representing the East and West Divisions in this week’s SIAC Basketball Tournament in Birmingham.

On the men’s side, Stillman (23-5, 17-1 W) comes in with the best men’s overall and conference records and is the West’s top seed. Six-four senior league scoring leader Rodnerius Lewis (19.4 ppg.), the league’s player of the year, and 6-7 all-SIAC junior forward Ronald Singleton (13.7 ppg.) lead the Tigers. Stillman enters the tournament ranked fifth in the NCAA Div. II South Region, the only SIAC men’s team in the top ten. Benedict (16-11, 11-7 E) barely edged out Morehouse and Claflin (both 11-7) for the top seed in the East.

For the women, Benedict from the East (24-2, 14-2 E) and Kentucky State in the West (21-3, 14-2 W) had near identical records and are the top seeds. Benedict is second and KSU fourth in the Div. II women’s South Region rankings. The top seeds from each division got byes thru Monday and Tuesday’s opening rounds into Wednesday and Thursday’s quarterfinal rounds. The SIAC championship games are Saturday evening, March 5.

MEAC
Hampton (18-9, 13-2 MEAC) clinched the top seed for next week’s men’s MEAC Tournament in Norfolk, Va. with its 79-65 win over Delaware State Monday. The MEAC regular season will close Thursday with the leaders meeting. The Pirates close the regular season Thursday at Norfolk State (11-4), currently tied for second with South Carolina State (11-4) who is a game ahead of Bethune-Cookman (10-5). B-CU is at SCSU Thursday to close the season.

Three women’s teams – Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina A&T and Hampton – are tied atop the women’s race with 11-4 records with only Thursday’s games left. Morgan State (10-5) is a game behind the leaders. A trio of teams – Maryland-Eastern Shore, Coppin State and Florida A&M – is at 9-6. The MEAC Tournament begins Monday, March 7 at the Scope Arena in Norfolk.

SWAC
The men of Texas Southern (16-12, 15-1 SWAC) under head coach Mike Davis clinched their third regular season title and top tournament seed in four years with its 96-86 win over Alabama State Monday. Six-seven power forward and football wide-receiving star Derrick Griffin has posted 17 double-doubles in 22 games to lead TSU.

He leads the conference in rebounding at 11.2 per game while scoring 13.7 points per game, seventh in the conference. Six-five senior Chris Thomas leads four TSU double-figure scorers at 14.4 ppg. Senior Malcolm Riley is just behind Griffin at 13.5 ppg. Alcorn State and Jackson State are tied for second with 12-4 conference records. The SWAC regular season ends with games Thursday and Saturday.

The last two regular season dates are critical to the women’s race. Texas Southern (11-3) has a one-game lead over three challengers at 10-4 – Southern, Alabama State and Grambling State. TSU is at Southern Thursday while Alabama State hosts Jackson State and Grambling visits Alabama A&M. On Saturday, Grambling is at Alabama State, TSU is at Alcorn State and Southern hosts Prairie View. The SWAC tournament begins Tuesday (March 8) at Houston’s Toyota Center.

INDEPENDENTS
The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, which is being held at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, will get underway on Wednesday, March 2, with the seventh-seeded Tennessee State Lady Tigers taking on second-seeded Belmont. A win would advance TSU to the semifinals on Friday before the Championship Game on Saturday. Seeded fourth, the TSU men’s basketball team will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 3 looking to advance to Friday’s semifinals. The Championship game is scheduled for Saturday, March 5.

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