Tiger men needing wins for tourney berth
Published on -3/6/2013, 10:01 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
In NCAA Division I men's basketball, winning the regular season conference championship in a top-tier league such as the Big 12 or ACC virtually automatically earns access to the NCAA tournament, and likely a high seed.
That's different in Division II when everything is based off the region. For Fort Hays State University, the region consists of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, the MIAA and the Great American Conference.
The Tigers shared the MIAA regular season title with a 19-7 overall record, 13-5 in league play, but FHSU still remains on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. The top eight teams in each region qualify for the NCAA field.
"Not to sound too negative, but that's the issue and problems with Division II postseason," FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. "We don't take our 64 best teams. A lot of times we don't even take the best eight teams in the region. It's based off formulas and if you get in, you get in. I think everybody around the country would understand the MIAA is one of the better, top leagues in the country. Unfortunately, in Division II, each league is treated the same. There is no separation."
The top four teams in the regular season collected a first-round bye for the MIAA tournament. Fort Hays plays in the second round Thursday against No. 9 seed Missouri Southern State University (13-14). Game time is noon at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. FHSU won the team's only regular season meeting, 83-69, on Feb. 2 in Hays.
"It will be a successful season no matter what and obviously we want to do more (than win league)," Johnson said. "We want to go to the conference tournament and try to win the conference tournament. You think over the years, you have had the eight beat the one seed a lot."
Johnson, who serves on the regional committee this year, said the MIAA still will receive more than one bid to the tournament. The MIAA generally earns three, sometimes four.
"We are going to have to make a deep run in the (MIAA) tournament," Johnson said. "I don't even know if one game will get it. I think we probably need to be playing on Sunday (in the final) to give ourselves an opportunity would be my guess."
Last year, a similar occurrence happened. Northwest Missouri State University, Washburn University and University of Central Missouri tied for first place in the regular season. Missouri Southern State University finished a game back. However, the Mules, like FHSU this year, had two non-conference losses. Missouri Southern had none. In Kansas City, Central Missouri and Missouri Southern lost in the first round. Northwest Missouri, Washburn and Missouri Southern advanced to the regional.
This year, FHSU and Central Missouri tied for the regular season title, but two teams (not including Lindenwood (Mo.) University, who is ineligible for postseason) finished a game back. Five MIAA teams head to K.C. with 19 wins.
"Just bunched up," Johnson said. "We will get multiple bids, but you take your whole season, the conference means nothing. We had a couple of non-conference losses. Teams that finished just behind us didn't. They take the whole thing."