Grizzly basketball team makes history, hope for more on Saturday
by Chris Day
ALAMOSA, Colo.— The Adams State College men’s basketball team made history on Wednesday and can make even more on Saturday afternoon. The Grizzlies were tabbed in the NCAA Division II North Central Regional Rankings for the first time in school history and are now just one win away from a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference West Division title and a home playoff game.
The regional rankings, along with conference tournaments, ultimately determine which eight teams from the region, made of up of the RMAC, the North Central Conference and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, advance to the Mar. 10-13 regional tournament.
Winners of each of those conference tournaments receives an automatic bid to the tournament while the remaining spots are filled by the top remaining teams in the final regional rankings.
The Grizzlies moved into the rankings, which include 10 teams from each of the eight regions from around the country. Head Coach Larry Mortensen’s squad holds down the eighth spot. Although they were just 12-12 overall heading into Thursday night’s victory at New Mexico Highlands, a game that will not be considered for this week’s rankings, the Grizzlies held a 12-7 record against NCAA Division II foes and were 11-6 in competition against the region, two of the main criteria in determining the rankings.
The Grizzlies also hold a head-to-head sweep over Mesa State, which slipped to ninth after sitting eighth in last week’s (Feb. 14) rankings.
Undefeated Winona State (Minn.), ranked first in the nation as well, leads the regional rankings. RMAC East Division powers Nebraska-Kearney and Metro State, who are locked in a battle for that division title, are second and fourth, respectively. Sandwiched in between them is NCC co-leader Minnesota State-Mankato.
St. Cloud State (Minn.) is fourth while South Dakota, tied for the NCC lead, is sixth. Fort Lewis follows in seventh while Southwest Minnesota State holds down the tenth spot.
ASC’s 87-79 victory at New Mexico Highlands, combined with a 103-95 Western State triumph over Fort Lewis, also gave the Grizzlies a shot at a RMAC West title for the first time.
The Grizzlies are now 12-6 in RMAC play, just a half-game behind Fort Lewis, who finishes the regular season at 13-6. The teams also split the regular season games. The next stage of the tiebreaking system is a complicated points-system in which teams accumulate points based on several factors.
Each team can pick up anywhere from one to five points for each conference game depending on if they win or lose, if the team they played finishes RMAC play with an above .500 record or not, and if the game is played at home or on the road.
A Grizzly win at Western New Mexico in Silver City would give them 57 points in 19 conference games. Fort Lewis now stands with 56 points after tonight’s regular-season setback to the Mountaineers, who also defeated ASC in Plachy Hall less than two weeks ago.
A divisional title would do several things for the Grizzlies. Mainly, it would allow ASC to be the No. 2 seed in next week’s RMAC Shootout, which begins with quarterfinal games on campus sites next Wednesday. The No. 2 seed will host the No. 7 seed, which could be any of a variety of teams.
If the Grizzlies are unable to come up with a win over Western New Mexico, a team they beat 79-65 at home on Jan. 17, ASC would be either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed and would play Mesa State in Plachy Hall or in Grand Junction.
The Mavericks are also 12-6 in conference play heading into a Saturday night game at Western State but have been defeated by the Grizzlies in both previous meetings this year, the first of which was in overtime.
The Grizzlies have not hosted a conference playoff game since the conference expanded to 14 teams for the 1996-97 season. This year’s trip will be ASC’s sixth in Mortensen’s tenure. The Grizzlies, who have already surpassed their NCAA Division II era (1992-93/Present) school-record for conference wins (10), have been seeded no higher than sixth in any of those appearances.
Saturday’s game at Western New Mexico will tip-off at 3 p.m. and can be heard on KSPK-FM (103.5 in Alamosa) or via the internet at www.kspk.com.