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Tourney time: CIAA first up in Charlotte

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

Black college basketball tournaments will be staged over the next three weeks and the CIAA got things started this week in Charlotte, N. C.

CIAA
The men of Virginia State and the women of Virginia Union are the favorites as the CIAA Basketball Tournaments tipped Tuesday morning and culminates Saturday evening at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.

For the men, a balanced Virginia State (20- 5) squad posted a league-best 14-2 conference record and grabbed the top seed from the North Division with an 8-2 mark. Virginia Union (15-13, 8-8, 7-3 N) is the North’s second seed. VSU’s 14-2 record league-wide is three games better than Chowan’s 11-5 conference record. Chowan (19-8, 5-5 N) is the men’s fourth-seed from the North behind third seed Bowie State (16-12, 9-7, 5-5).

Bowie State, Johnson C. Smith and Shaw, all at 9-7 in conference play, are the only other teams with above .500 records in conference play. With its 7-3 record vs. Southern Division competition, J. C. Smith (14-11, 9-7) is the division’s top seed, followed by St. Augustine’s (11-15, 6-10, 6-4 S), Shaw (12-16, 5-5 S) and two-time defending tournament champion Livingstone (12-16, 7-9, 4-6 S).

The top four teams from each men’s division got byes thru Tuesday and Wednesday’s opening rounds into Thursday’s quarterfinal round. Going into the tournament, only Virginia State at No. 7, is ranked in the top ten in the NCAA Div. II Atlantic Region. Eight teams from the region make the Div. II playoff field. That likely means VSU can not have an early out in the tournament and will have to win or at least make the tournament finals to be sure of advancing. No other team is a sure bet to advance beyond the tournament.

On the women’s side, Virginia Union (22- 2), led by NCAA Div. II scoring leader Kiana Johnson’s 28.0 points per game, has the best overall record and is tied with Shaw (22-6) with the best records in conference play (14-2) and in their respective divisions (9-1). VUU is the top seed from the North and Shaw is the South’s top seed.

The two are also the only two women’s teams ranked in the top ten in the Div. II Atlantic Region. VUU is first while Shaw is sixth. That likely means VUU will advance to the Div. II regional playoffs regardless of its showing in the tournament while Shaw perhaps needs to at least make the finals or win it all to advance. Chowan (19-7, 13-3, 8-2 N) is the second seed from the North while Livingstone (14-11, 9-7, 6-4) is seeded second in the South. The top two seeds from each division in the women’s brackets get first round byes and play in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

SIAC
Most of the top seeds are set for the March 3-9 SIAC Tournament in Birmingham. Stillman (21-5, 15-1 W) has the best overall record and is the top seed from the men’s West Division. The Tigers under head coach Donte Jackson were ranked sixth in the NCAA Div. II South Region last week. Miles (16-11, 13-5 W) has secured the second seed in the West. Morehouse (13-7, 9-6 East), has the second best overall record among SIAC teams and was ranked 10th in last week’s regional rankings.

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Morehouse hosts Stillman Thursday before hosting Paine in the SIAC regular season finale on Saturday. Two Morehouse wins would vault the Maroon Tigers past Benedict (16-11, 11-7 E) in the final East Division standings. A split would tie them with Benedict and give the top seed to Morehouse who won both regular season meetings with Benedict. Benedict (22-2, 12-2) in the East and Kentucky State (18-3, 12-2) in the West are the women’s top seeds. Benedict is second and KSU is fifth in South Regional rankings.

MEAC
The MEAC regular season comes to close next Thursday, March 3 in advance of the March 7-12 Tournament in Norfolk, Va. For the men, first-place Hampton (16-9, 11-2), under head coach Ed Joyner, Jr., has three games left, two against teams in the bottom half of the standings. The Pirates host Howard (11-17, 5-8) Saturday and Delaware State (7-21, 5-8) Monday. Hampton closes the regular season with a showdown at nearby rival Norfolk State (14-14, 10-3), now tied for second-place with South Carolina State (16-12, 11-3), on March 3. S. C. State has a battle at fifth-place Savannah State Saturday before finishing at home Thursday vs. fourth-place Bethune-Cookman. B-CU also has dates at home Saturday vs. N. C. Central and Monday vs. North Carolina A&T.

NSU had a road date Wednesday (Feb. 24) at Morgan State before returning home for Howard Monday and Hampton Thursday. The Lady Aggies of N. C. A&T and Lady Pirates of Hampton are tied for the women’s lead with 10-3 league marks. Morgan State (10-4) and Bethune-Cookman (9-4) are just behind the leaders. The Hampton/Howard women’s tilt Monday is one to watch. Howard knocked off the Lady Pirates in overtime in their matchup in D. C. on Feb. 8. A&T and B-CU meet Monday in another key women’s matchup.

SWAC
SWAC regular season games run thru next Saturday, March 5 before the March 8-12 Tournament in Houston. Southern (14-12, 13-1 SWAC) has stretched its lead to three games over Alcorn State (13-13, 11-4) and Jackson State (15-12, 10-4) with three or four regular season games left in the men’s race. TSU hosts Alabama A&M Saturday and Alabama State Monday. Alcorn State hosts fourth-place Southern (10-5) Saturday. JSU hosts Mississippi Valley State Saturday and Arkansas-Pine Bluff Monday. The women’s race is much closer with Texas Southern (11-2) just a half-game better than Southern (12-3). Alabama State (10-3) and Grambling State (10-4) are third and fourth. TSU hosts Alabama State Monday in a key matchup.

INDEPENDENTS
Tennessee State (19-8, 10-4) is in second place in the Ohio Valley Conference East Division men’s race behind Belmont (20-9, 12-3). The Blue Tigers and head coach Dana Ford play at OVC West Division leader U-T Martin (17-12, 9-5) Thursday before closing at home Sunday vs. Belmont. The OVC Tournament is March 2-5 at the Nashville (Tn.) Municipal Auditorium. The UDC Lady Firebirds (19-7) are currently tied for second at 14-4 with Roberts Wesleyan in the East Coast Conference with two games left in the regular season.

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