Mount Olive gets Division II tournament bid
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 8, 2004 1:55 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- As the clock ticked down the final seconds, all eyes turned toward the television screen.
You could see the concern in the eyes of the Mount Olive College men's basketball team. Had they done everything possible to receive their first-ever bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament?
Would the seven-member East Regional selection committee acknowledge the Trojans' play during the last month, including a key postseason victory against two-time East Regional champion Queens University of Charlotte?
The players anxiously watched as College Sports Television unveiled the 64-team field late Sunday evening.
"It was so quiet, you could pretty much here a pin drop in here," Mount Olive senior Sean Barnett said.
The anxiety level increased when District of Columbia, an independent, climbed from its No. 9 perch in the East Region to a sixth seed in the eight-team regional field.
"My heart dropped," Mount Olive assistant coach Joey Higganbotham said.
But a few seconds later, the Trojans got the answer they wanted. They had -- indeed -- secured a spot in the regional, which begins play March 13th at Pfeiffer University. Mount Olive (23-7) drew the seventh seed and opposes second-seeded Alderson-Broaddus.
Game time is set for 2:30 p.m.
"Everybody started screaming, hollering, jumping around and high-fiving everybody," Barnett said.
The Trojans beat Alderson-Broaddus in overtime in the Rollins (Fla.) College tournament last season. But A-B gained some revenge by winning its conference tournament and preventing Mount Olive from receiving an at-large bid to the big dance.
"We owe them a little something," Barnett said.
Other first-round matchups include top-seeded Pfeiffer University against eighth-seeded Indiana (Pa.) University; third-seeded West Virginia State against District of Columbia; and fourth-seeded California (Pa.) University against Cheyney.
Two-time East Regional champion Queens did not receive a bid.
The Trojans are the eighth Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference team to qualify for the Division II playoffs since the conference began play in 1996-97. The league has averaged at least two postseason participants each of the past three years.
"This means a lot," Barnett said. "We worked really hard and we've been more of a family this year than the other years I've been here. The coaches battle for us, we battle for the coaches and we battle for ourselves."
Regardless of the regional outcome, Mount Olive has turned in a record-setting performance this season. The Trojans have established a new record for wins (23) and regular-season CVAC victories (15). They also defeated Pfeiffer 108-105 in the first-ever matchup between two nationally-ranked teams at College Hall on Feb. 9.
"We're very happy to be in the regionals for the first time," Trojans head coach Bill Clingan said. "It's a tribute to our team and the type of season they've had. Alderson-Broaddus is a very good ball club; very experienced.
"We'll have our hands full. We definitely look forward to the challenge."
Chip Sherer (Erskine) and Jeff Childress (Pfeiffer) represented the CVAC on the seven-member East Regional committee. Will Adair (PSAC), Chad Hankinson (Glenville State), Ed Matejkovic (West Chester), Bryan Poore (West Virginia State) and Mike Castner (Pitt-Johnstown) also participated. The CVAC, Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament champions each received automatic bids to the regionals.
The committee selected the remaining at-large teams based on the following five criteria: won-lost records against all divisions, strength of schedule, regional won-loss record, regional strength of schedule and head-to-head. The head-to-head criteria factored heavily into the Trojans earning an at-large bid.
Mount Olive trailed Queens University in the final regional poll released March 3. But the Trojans upended Queens in the CVAC Tournament semifinals, giving them a 2-1 edge against the Royals in head-to-head meetings.
"That was the ball and chain ... everything," Higganbotham said. "Everyone said whoever won that game would get the at-large (bid). We knew if we wanted to continue our season, we had to get that game."
Twenty-two teams received automatic bids, while 42 teams grabbed the remaining at-large spots. The regional champions advance to Bakersfield, Calif., for the three-day Elite Eight tournament in late March.
Northeastern State is the reigning national champion.
Editor's note: David Shumlinson, Mount Olive College sports information director, contributed to this story.
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