By Dave Wagner
After having to sit and wait for several days, the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team will find out its fate in the NCAA Division II tournament tonight.
Selections for the eight-team South Central Region tournament will be announced at 8:30 p.m. (MST) today.
The Greyhound, ranked fifth in the region at the start of the week, lost at home to Southwestern Oklahoma 61-52 on Tuesday. But with relatively few upsets in the Lone Star Conference, Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and Heartland Conference tournaments this week, their chances of getting a berth now appear to be pretty good.
Still, fourth-year ENMU coach Shawn Scanlan remains wary.
“I feel good about our chances, but I’m trying to be cautious,” said Scanlan, whose team is 20-8 for the season. “There’s always variables out there.”
Favorites Tarleton State and Drury won the LSC and Heartland tourney titles Saturday night, beating Northeastern State and St. Mary’s, respectively, and in the process knocking back teams which could have caused problems for ENMU.
Washburn, ranked second in the region behind Tarleton, eliminated unranked Pittsburg State in the MIAA semifinals on Saturday, knocking out the unranked Gorillas and helping Eastern’s chances. The other MIAA semifinal sent Northwest Missouri State, third in the region, against unranked Missouri Western.
“I’m a little bit on pins and needles, but from my standpoint I feel a little bit better to hear that Tarleton won,” he said. “I won’t be comfortable until I see it, but I like where we are right now. The things that had to happen have happened.”
Drury and St. Mary’s, ranked sixth and seventh, may have both needed to reach the Heartland final to qualify. Emporia State, ranked fourth in the region, lost in the first round of the MIAA tournament but was still considered near a lock to make it, Scanlan said.
Southwestern and Northeastern, both unranked at the start of the week, probably needed to win the LSC tournament to get in. SWOSU lost on Friday in overtime to Northeastern.
Kingsville, ranked eighth, built a 30-point halftime lead against Tarleton on Friday before losing to the Texans 89-85 in a wild LSC semifinal at Stephenville, Texas. But with their two wins over Eastern and a No. 8 ranking at the start of the week, the Javelinas could get in.
The Hounds have not made the NCAA Division II tournament since 1993, when they reached the second round of the regionals before losing to Washburn 79-78.