West Liberty gains 10th straight NCAA berth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The West Liberty University men’s basketball team has earned its 10th consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament bid and will be the No. 2 seed when the 2019 Atlantic Regional Tournament tips off Saturday afternoon at Indiana (Pa.) University.

Coach Ben Howlett’s Hilltoppers (26-4) will take on No. 7 seed East Stroudsburg (21-7) in one of four quarterfinal matchups at IUP’s 5,000-seat Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

West Liberty will be looking to rebound after being upset by Notre Dame, 100-96, in Sunday’s MEC Tournament championship game at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. East Stroudsburg, the defending Atlantic Region champion, had its 10-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a 67-64 loss to Mercyhurst in a PSAC Tournament semifinal.

The Hilltoppers have won five of the last eight Atlantic Region championships, played in seven of the last nine Sweet 16s and advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four three times in the last six seasons.

Notre Dame (23-8) landed on the other side of West Liberty’s bracket as the No. 6 seed. The Falcons will take on No. 2 seed Virginia State (27-4), the CIAA regular season and tournament champion.

Fairmont State (22-8) is the third Mountain East Conference team to make the regional field. The Falcons are the No. 5 seed and will go up against No. 4 seed Mercyhurst (23-6), the PSAC Tournament runner-up, on Saturday. Host and No. 1 seed Indiana, Pa. (29-2), the PSAC West regular season and PSAC Tournament champion, will play No. 8 seed West Chester (22-8) in its quarterfinal matchup.

Saturday’s quarterfinal survivors will advance to semifinal action on Sunday with the regional championship game set for Tuesday night.

Tipoff times and ticket information will be released later this week by Indiana (Pa.).