One night after a heartbreaking loss in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament championship game, the Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team was able to look forward.
No. 25 FLC (24-6) earned the fourth-seed in the eight-team South Central Region when the NCAA Division II men’s basketball tournament field was revealed Sunday night. It is the 11th time FLC has made the D-II national tournament.
“These trips to the NCAA regional don’t come around as often as you think, so we cherish the opportunity just to keep playing basketball and will try to play our best basketball next week,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “Let the chips fall where they may. This is not something to take for granted, especially in D-II where it’s so very hard. I’m very proud of our program making a third consecutive trip.”
The Skyhawks, who won the RMAC regular-season championship before an 88-80 loss to Regis University in the tournament championship game Saturday night inside Whalen Gymnasium in Durango, will open the tournament against No. 5 Texas A&M Commerce (21-8).
“They are very athletic and have some unbelievably good wins this year,” Pietrack said. “They beat West Texas, Texas-Permian Basin and are a very good team. I had a chance to watch them at the regional last year, and I know they get up and down and can really guard. We have our hands full once again drawing a Lone Star Conference team.”
The regional tournament will be hosted by top-seed West Texas A&M (27-4) in Canyon, Texas. The Buffs will open against eight-seed Colorado School of Mines (22-8), which hosted and won the regional last year to reach the Elite Eight.
Regis (26-5), thanks to its win Saturday, jumped into the No. 3 seed and will face Heartland Conference tournament winner Dallas Baptist University in the first round.
Texas-Permian Basin (26-5) of the Lone Star earned the second-seed and will face the Heartland Conference’s Arkansas-Fort Smith (24-5) in the first round.
Pietrack was happy to see three RMAC teams make the regional after only two got in the previous two years.
“It shows the strength of our league,” he said.
FLC has gone 2-2 the previous two years in the regional tournament with a win in 2016 against Dallas Baptist and a 2017 stunning upset of two-time defending regional champion Tarleton State.
The RMAC also got three teams in the women’s tournament. CSU-Pueblo is the third-seed and will face sixth-seed Metro State in the first round. Black Hills State received the fifth seed and will face fourth-seed Angelo State in a regional to be hosted by Lubbock Christian.
FLC’s men will open play in the tournament March 10. The time has yet to be decided.
“We’re thankful, and our guys are excited to play,” Pietrack said. “It’s been a great year so far, and now we’re looking to see if we can turn a great year into a special year over the next week.”