They don’t want to focus on polls at this stage of the season. But you can bet the first regional rankings of the season will be hanging in a few lockers inside Whalen Gymnasium this week.
The first of three NCAA Division II regional rankings of the season were released Wednesday. Even as the 11th-ranked team in the national coaches poll, the Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team entered the South Central Region rankings at fifth. The top eight teams in each region advance to the national tournament.
No. 22 Colorado Mines, who FLC will host Friday with Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular season championship implications, came in at No. 2 in the region.
FLC has a better overall and conference record at 22-3 and 17-2 in the RMAC, while the Orediggers sit at 20-4 and 15-3. But Colorado Mines has the advantage when it comes to in-region and overall Division II record at 19-3 in both categories. FLC is 18-3 in those departments.
Despite beating the Orediggers three times last season, RMAC coaches picked Colorado Mines ahead of Fort Lewis in the preseason poll this year. So Wednesday’s positioning behind Mines was nothing new for the humble Skyhawks.
“Right now, we aren’t concerned with the regional rankings,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack told The Durango Herald. “We are focused on Friday and playing a great opponent in Colorado Mines. Mines is the No. 2 team in the region, and they are having a wonderful season.”
A win Friday would certainly put FLC ahead of the Orediggers in next week’s regional rankings. The third and final set will be released following the conference tournament.
“It’s not where you start in the rankings, it’s where you finish,” Pietrack said. “We have a lot of important basketball left to play this season.”
Ninth-ranked Tarleton State (22-3, 13-2 Lone Star Conference) was a clear choice for first in the region.
West Texas A&M (21-6, 9-5 LSC) came in third in the poll. The Buffs beat FLC at home 90-82 in FLC’s season opener.
Texas-Permian Basin (19-5, 10-4 LSC) also is ahead of FLC with a 14-5 region record. The RMAC got a third team into the top-eight of the region rankings, as CSU-Pueblo came in at No. 8. Regis is just outside at No. 9.
In the women’s South Central Region, No. 6 CSU-Pueblo came in first with a 22-1 in-region mark. Fort Lewis (18-6, 13-6 RMAC) sits ninth behind eight-place UC-Colorado Springs and seventh Regis. FLC is also in front of Colorado Mesa, which earned the final spot in the initial rankings.
FLC has a good chance to move up and get into the NCAA postseason with three games to play.