INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The No. 1-ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team will begin its quest for an Atlantic Region "three-peat" on its home floor this weekend.
For the third consecutive year, Coach Jim Crutchfield's West Virginia Conference tournament and regular-season champions have been selected as the No. 1 seed and host school for the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament, which tips off Saturday with four quarterfinal games at the ASRC. The semifinals will be played the following night with the Atlantic Region championship game scheduled for Tuesday, March 19.
The NCAA's official announcement came late Sunday night via a live webcast introducing the entire 64-team NCAA Division II championship tournament field.
The Hilltoppers are coming off back-to-back Atlantic Region titles and Elite Eight appearances. The 2011 West Liberty team rolled all the way to the national semifinals before coming up short in a 110-101 shootout against BYU-Hawaii. Last year's WLU squad routed its three regional foes by an average margin of 26 points only to be upset, 91-90, in an Elite Eight quarterfinal.
Hoping that the third time will be the charm, the Hilltoppers begin their pursuit of another regional title on Saturday when they take on No. 8 seed Bowie State, Md. (16-13), which punched its regional ticket with a surprise run to the CIAA Tournament championship last week.
Winston-Salem State, N.C. (21-6) held onto the No. 2 seed despite a 17-point loss to Bowie State in the CIAA semifinals. The Rams will take on No. 7 seed Slippery Rock, Pa. (22-8), which wasn't even ranked among the top 10 teams in the region a week ago but squeezed into the field with a run to the PSAC Tournament championship game.
Tourney-tested Indiana, Pa. (24-5) is the No. 3 seed after beating Slippery Rock in the PSAC finals. IUP will face slumping PSAC foe East Stroudsburg, Pa. (22-6) in the regional quarterfinals. No. 6-seeded East Stroudsburg had been ranked as high as third in the region before losing four of its last six games.
There's a familiar face at the No. 4 seed with WVIAC regular-season and tournament runner-up Fairmont State (22-8) matched up against No. 5 seed Livingstone, N.C. (22-6), which reeled off 8 straight wins before being upset by Bowie State in the CIAA title tilt.
While the format for the 8 regional tournaments is unchanged from a year ago, the NCAA has altered its championship format. Instead of playing the entire Elite Eight championship at a single site, the Elite Eight quarterfinals and Final Four semifinals are set for March 29-30 in Louisville, Ky. The NCAA Division II championship game won't be played until April 7 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga.
The West Liberty University athletic department will announce tipoff times for all games and complete tournament ticket information later this week.