BANGOR, Maine — Two NCAA Division III tournament bids will be at stake at Newman Gymnasium this weekend when Husson University hosts the North Atlantic Conference men’s and women’s basketball semifinals and championship games.
The Eagles earned the right to host both tournaments by virtue of finishing first in the NAC regular-season standings. The Husson women’s team went 20-4 overall, 16-2 in conference play, and the men’s squad was 19-6 and 16-2, respectively.
Both Husson teams earned a bye for Tuesday’s quarterfinals, as did the second-seeded Castleton (Vermont) University men (16-8, 11-7 NAC) and women (17-8, 15-3 NAC).
Other teams that will participate in Friday’s semifinals were to be determined Tuesday night.
In men’s quarterfinals, No. 4 Lyndon State (11-13, 10-8 NAC) was set to host No. 5 UMaine-Farmington (11-14, 10-8) while No. 3 Thomas College of Waterville (13-12, 11-7) will host No. 6 Colby-Sawyer (12-13, 9-9)
Friday’s semifinals at Husson have No. 2 Castleton facing the Thomas/Colby-Sawyer winner at 1 p.m., followed by the top-ranked Eagles against the Lyndon State/UMaine-Farmington survivor at 3 p.m.
The NAC men’s final will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday as the first half of a championship doubleheader. The women’s final will follow at 4:30 p.m. with the winners of both games earning automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.
NAC women’s quarterfinals Tuesday night had third-seeded New England College (19-6, 13-5 NAC) hosting No. 6 Johnson State ((12-13, 8-10) and No. 5 Maine Maritime Academy of Castine (14-11, 10-8) at No. 4 Colby-Sawyer (12-6).
Husson will play the Colby-Sawyer/MMA winner in Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal, followed at 8 by Castleton against the NEC/Johnson State winner.
The Husson men’s and women’s teams both enter postseason play as defending NAC champions.
UMFK earns USCAA top seed
The University of Maine at Fort Kent men’s basketball team is the No. 1 seed for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division I championship tournament to be held Feb. 28-March 4 at Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
Coach Tom Bird’s Bengals finished the regular season with a 22-8 record and will face No. 8 Dean College (16-10) of Franklin, Massachusetts, in a national quarterfinal scheduled for 2 p.m. on March 1.
If UMFK wins that game, it would advance to a semifinal at 8 p.m. on March 2.
The USCAA Division I championship game is set for Saturday, March 4, at a time to be determined.
“The kids have worked hard off the court since September so they deserve everything right now,” said Bird. “Our goal was the make it to the tournament at the start of the year, and really for the last three years that’s been the goal. Now that we’re there, the ultimate goal is to win it all and get the kids a championship ring.”
UMFK is ranked fourth in the USCAA Division I national poll,but earned the top seed for the tournament as the top three seeds — Rochester (Michigan) College, West Virginia Tech and Washington Adventist University of Takoma, Maryland — are dual affiliates with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and their NAIA tournament conflicts with the USCAA event.
UMFK defeated Washington Adventist 96-77 on Jan. 22 at Lynn, Massachusetts, but fell at Rochester 83-76 on Feb. 4.
“We know we can play with anyone when we’re on and we hope to keep the momentum going from the end of our season,” said Bird.
UMFK has been led this winter by senior center Joe McCloskey of Howland (18.7 points, 8.0 rebounds per game), senior guard Rosevelt Smith Jr. (14.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg and 5.9 assists per game) and junior forward Travis Harlin Jr. (13.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg).
Joining UMFK in the eight-team USCAA championship field are No. 2 Concordia College of Alabama, No. 3 Berea (Kentucky) College, No. 3 Illinois Tech, No. 5 Florida College, No. 6 Florida National University and No. 7 Iowa Wesleyan.