MARCH MADNESS IS HERE: Conference Tournaments Highlight a thrilling two weeks of Division II hoops.

All three west-region conferences will lace em up this week and begin post-season play, with many teams fighting for their West Regional lives.

It all starts tonight with first round play in the CCAA. Four games are on tap with Chico State, UC San Diego and Cal Poly Pomona all trying to bounce back from a disjointed final few games of their seasons.

WEST
Rank School Overall DII Record In-Region Record
1 Western Ore.                                    22-2        22-2
2 Chico St.                                               19-4        19-4
3 UC San Diego                                   19-5         18-5
4 California Baptist                           20-6         18-6
5 Seattle Pacific                                   18-7         18-7
6 Azusa Pacific                                     18-6         17-6
7 Cal Poly Pomona                            18-6          16-6
8 Dixie St.                                                15-8          15-8
9 Alas. Anchorage                              16-8          15-8
10 Alas. Fairbanks                             16-7           16-7

CCAA

Chico State was ranked number two in the official West Region rankings and knocked off Dominguez Hills 64-57, but fell to their first sub .500 team on the season Cal State Los Angeles 65-64 on Saturday night. The  CCAA Champion Wildcats are the top seed in the CCAA Tournament and will host Cal State Los Angeles at Acker Gymnasium tonight at 7pm. Chico played the game without their second leading scorer Corey Silverstrom. They are optimistic he will be back tonight.

UC San Diego was ranked third in the regional poll and they lost at home to Sonoma State 64-62. Like Chico, the Tritons will play Sonoma State again in the first round of the conference tourney. It will be interesting to see what the committee does with Chico and Sonoma and their late season losses. We saw Seattle Pacific take a dip three spots in the poll after their lone loss to a sub .500 team.

Cal Poly Pomona is hosting San Francisco State in another first round match-up. These two defensive minded teams should have a grind it out, knock down drag out ball game. Pomona was ranked 7th in the last regional poll. We still wait on this week’s poll, due out this Wednesday

The other game could be the most offensive and entertaining contest of the quartet. Humboldt State is hosting Cal State Monterey Bay. Both teams are prolific scoring clubs and both teams need to win their respective conference tourney’s to get into the NCAA Tournament.

The winner of the Chico/CSLA game will play the winner of Humboldt and Monterey on Friday afternoon at Noon.

The winner of the UCSD/Sonoma game will play the winner of the Pomona and SF State game on Friday at 2:30pm.

The Championship of the CCAA Men’s Basketball Championship is at 5pm in Stockton on Saturday afternoon.

GNAC

The six-team Great Northwest Conference Championship Tournament gets underway on Thursday. By Thursday we will have our latest installment of the regional rankings. The top two seeds in the GNAC get first round byes. Top-seed Western Oregon and 2-seed Alaska will get to sit and watch two pretty good games.

Third-seed Alaska Anchorage takes on Western Washington. Anchorage is firmly on the NCAA bubble. The Seawolves sit at number 9 in the latest West Region rankings.  They not only need to advance deep in the GNAC tourney, but they also most likely need Dixie State and maybe Pomona to stumble as well. Western Washington needs to win the GNAC Tourney to get the automatic bid. The game will be played at 12 noon on Thursday.

At 2:15 on Thursday Seattle Pacific will take on Central Washington. This is another game that should be a good one. We’ve been touting the Falcons all season. Their 61-50 win over Chico State in late November is still emblazoned in my memory bank. They have played a strong schedule, have only lost one game to a team below .500 all year. They sit in the number 5 spot in the region. Regardless of how they do in the conference tournament, they will be dancing next week at the regional. I have been impressed with Central all year but their resume just isn’t strong enough to get into the NCAA Tournament as an AT-LARGE team. They need to win this thing to get in

That brings us to Alaska. They have a first round bye, yet they are only number 10 in the West Region rankings. They would almost be better served playing a first round game and giving themselves a chance at another quality win. This does bring us to the dilemma that is non-conference scheduling and wins. There is no doubt the Nanooks should be in the discussion and are one of the best teams in the West, but every game matters and when you break down the regional criteria, they are lacking. They will probably need to win the tournament to get into the regional. All these teams have a chance. That is why this week, these games are so important.

PAC WEST

This Thursday the Pacific West Conference begins. They also have a six-team tournament with top two seeds getting first round byes. Top seed Azusa Pacific and second seed Dixie State will play their first games on Friday.

Sixth seeded Dominican will take on Cal Baptist on Thursday at 12:30. Dominican is looking for a great three-day run to punch an at-large ticket to the NCAA’s. The Penguins are a team that likes to spread you out, slash to the bucket and knock down the three. They can beat anyone on any given day. There is never a question about their effort. The Lancers are tournament tested and ironically sit two spots ahead of Azusa Pacific in the regional rankings. Cal Baptist could lose to Dominican and I still think they are in the regional. This should be a fun game to watch.

The other first round match-up has BYU-Hawaii taking on Hawaii Pacific. Neither of these teams is ranked in the top-10 in the regional so both the Seasiders and Silverswords need to win the post-season tourney to get the automatic bid. The winner of BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific will play Azusa on Friday at 5pm.

Dixie State will play the winner of Cal Baptist and Dominican at 12:30 on Friday. Dixie is in a similar situation to Anchorage. Right now they are at number eight in the regional. If they lose their first game they are putting themselves at great risk of being bumped out by a team that is not in the top-eight earning an automatic qualifier.

Dreams are dashed, dreams are fulfilled this week. The most important thing to note is that these conference championship tournaments are nice. They are fun. But, in the grand context they are third most important thing, IN MY OPINION, to win. The West Region Championship is the most important thing to win. Second, is winning the three-month struggle that is a regular season conference title. And, coming in a distant third is this three-day extravaganza. We have seen that these tourney’s do hold great sway when it comes to the final regional rankings and the NCAA Tournament field.

We are most likely headed to Monmouth for the regional next week. I would call it a virtual certainty. Enjoy the games everyone. Since I am bed-ridden for the week, I will be enjoying the games with all of you, on the various video and audio casts. I will post the latest regional rankings when they are released on Wednesday. Remember, this last installment of the regional rankings are nice, but they are expected to change SIGNIFICANTLY by next Sunday when the tournament field is announced.

Enjoy the games everyone !

*PHOTO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM

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