MONTEVALLO, Ala. – The University of Montevallo will play host to the top-eight men’s basketball teams in the Southeast Region this coming weekend. The field features three nationally-ranked teams along with three Conference Tournament Champions and three more regular season Conference Champions. The teams will go to battle this Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday to earn a trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Highland Heights, Ky.
The University of Montevallo men’s basketball team heads into the tournament as the number one seed. The Falcons are ranked 22nd in the nation. This will be the Falcons third time as Regional hosts and seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament as they try and capture their third trip to the Elite Eight under head coach Danny Young. The Falcons boast a 24-7 record and have the only First Team All-Region selection in the field in the form of senior D.J. Rivera. The Falcons are out-scoring their opponents by over 10 points a game and rank among the top of the NCAA in rebounding margin at +10.2. Rivera leads the team with 21.7 points per game and 2.5 steals per game. Senior Antoine Davis who suffered an early season injury has returned to form and is averaging 13.5 points per game and a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game. He was recently named the Peach Belt Conference Tournament MVP and was also named the PBC Defensive Player of the Year. Rivera was named First Team All-PBC, First Team All-Region and was selected to the PBC All-Tournament Team.
USC Aiken comes to Montevallo as the number two seed and the reigning Peach Belt Conference regular season Champion. The Pacers are making their fourth trip to the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament in the last five years. USC Aiken has made five appearances (1998, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012) in total. They are 4-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. In 2009 they made it to the NCAA Division II “Sweet Sixteen”. The Pacers are led by Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year Vince Alexander and Second Team All-Region selection Sterling Council. Council was also named First Team All-PBC while teammate Re’mon Nelson was named Third Team All-PBC and was selected to the PBC All-Tournament Team. Council leads the team with 11.8 points per game while Nelson is just behind at 11.5 points per game. Nelson has also dished out 3.6 assists per game this season. As a team the Pacers out-score their opponents by 9.4 points per game and force almost 20 turnovers a game.
Anderson University comes in as the highest nationally-ranked team in the field at 14th but is the number three seed in the tournament. The Trojans have already equaled their school record for wins after making South Atlantic Conference history by becoming just the fourth team in the league to suffer just one loss in regular-season play, while recording the most regular-season league wins in league history and notched the highest league winning percentage (.944) in conference history. The Trojans boast a 24-5 record. The Trojans are led by South Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year Jason Taylor. Junior guard Denzail Jones, the SAC Player of the Year, was named second-team All-Region earlier this week after earning SAC Tournament MVP accolades and being named First-team All-South Atlantic Conference at the conclusion of the regular season. The 5-foot-9 standout finished fifth in the league in scoring (17.0 ppg.), first in steals, seventh in assists and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio. He scored a tournament-record 50 points in AU’s double-overtime win over Newberry in the conference tournament semifinals. Senior center Taylor Shugart also garnered all-tournament and second-team All-SAC honors after leading the conference with 7.2 rebounds per game and ranked sixth in the league in field goal percentage (52.6%). The Trojans out-score their opponents by 9.1 points per game and force almost 17 turnovers per contest.
Lincoln Memorial University comes into the tournament as the number four seed and ranked 24th in the nation. The Railsplitters spent much of the season as the top-ranked team in Division II as they started the season with 15-straight wins. LMU enters with a 25-5 record. This is LMU's second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid as last season the Railsplitters drew the No. 2 seed where they were downed by eventual region champs, Anderson University, in the opening round. The Railsplitters are led by head coach Josh Schertz. Desmond Johnson leads the team on the floor as he averages 10.8 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game. He was named the SAC Player of the Year once season ago and was named First Team All-SAC this season. Brandon Armstrong joined Johnson on the First Team as he averages 10.1 points per game and 3.8 assists per game. The Railsplitters are out-scoring their opponents by 18 points per game and lead the nation in rebounding margin at +11.0.
King College enters the tournament as the number five seed and is under the direction of Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year George Pitts. The Tornado boasts a record of 23-6 and were the Conference Carolinas regular season Champions. This is King's first-ever NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament appearance and the College's second national postseason tournament since making the transition from NAIA. Earlier this season, King was tabbed No. 2 in the Southeast region and made an appearance in the Top-25 Coaches' Poll. King ended the season advancing to the Conference Carolinas semi-final game after earning a regular season championship with a 14-2 conference record. KC is led by First Team All-CC selection Brian Hewitt who is averaging 16.4 points per game. Second Team selection Eddie Piccinini averages 15.9 points per game. The Tornado out-scores its opponents by 5.4 points per game.
Columbus State University is the sixth seed in the tournament and is under the direction of head coach Robert Moore. This marks the Cougars first appearance in the national tournament since the 2006 season. That season, they defeated USC Upstate 90-88 in overtime before falling to eventual national runner-up Virginia Union in the second round 75-69. CSU enters the tournament with an 18-11 record on the year after reaching the Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship game where they fell to the No. 1 seed in the region, Montevallo. CSU is led by Second Team All-PBC selection Steve Peterson who is averaging 15.0 points per game and 5.4 rebounds. Jarmarquis Steverson and Idell Bell both average just over 10.0 points per game. The Cougars are out-scoring their opponents by 2.6 points per game and are out-rebounding their opponents by 2.6 rebounds per game.
Wingate University enters the tournament as the number seven seed and is under the direction of head coach Brian Good. The Bulldogs won the SAC Tournament title for the fourth time in school history last weekend, while notching their first championship since the 2007 season. Wingate makes the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in school history, making its first appearance since the 2008 season. In seven previous trips, Wingate is 5-7 overall with an Elite Eight finish in 2007. Wingate defeated both Lincoln Memorial and Anderson en route to their 2012 SAC Tournament Championship. WU is led by First Team All-SAC selection Jaime Vaughn who is averaging 15.0 points per game. Odell Turner sits in second on the team with 11.2 points per game. The Bulldogs own a 20-11 record and are out-scoring their opponents by 6.9 points per game. They also out-rebound their opponents by 4.1 per game.
Barton College comes into the tournament as the number eight seed and the 2012 Conference Carolinas Tournament Champions. Barton is making its sixth trip to the NCAA Division II National Tournament (1997, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012) and has one National Championship to their credit in 2007. BC is led by head coach Ron Lievense. Second Team All-Region selection Gerald Boston leads the Bulldogs on the court. Boston is a three-time All-Conference Carolinas performer (1st Team in 2012, 2nd Team in 2011 and 3rd Team in 2010) and was the 2010 Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year. Boston earned a Conference Carolinas Player of the Week award earlier this season and was named the Conference Carolinas Tournament MVP. He averages 18.6 points per game and 4.9 assists. Jaren Haley is second on the Bulldog squad with 14.5 points per game. The Bulldogs are out-scoring their opponents by 6.6 points per game and out-rebound them by 3.4.
Anderson and Columbus State kick off the tournament on Saturday, March 10 at 12:00 p.m. USC Aiken and Wingate follow at 2:30 p.m. Host Montevallo takes on Barton at 6:00 p.m. while Lincoln Memorial and King take the floor at 8:30 p.m. All the action will take place inside BankTrust Arena on the campus of Montevallo. For tickets visit MontevalloFalcons.com and click on the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship site.