The NCAA Division II Elite Eight is set to get underway on Wednesday with eight different teams than a year ago, which marks only the second time since 1989 this has occurred, according to the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball homepage. All four Elite Eight games will take place on Wednesday, starting at 1 p.m.
This year’s tournament features seven teams ranked in the NABC Top-25 rankings — No. 1 Florida Southern College, No. 3 Bellermine University, No. 4 Minnesota State-Moorhead, No. 7 Tarleton State, No. 9 Mount Olive, No. 14 Azusa Pacific, and No. 25 Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Southern New Hampshire is the only team in the Elite Eight that is unranked. Four teams enter the tournament with at least 30 wins, led by NCAAD-II best, Minnesota State-Moorhead, with 35.
The tournament, for the second straight year, is being held at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., between March 25-28. The Semifinals will be held on Thursday, and the championship game schedule for Saturday at 3 p.m., will be aired live on CBS.
All Elite Eight games can be seen streaming live on NCAA.com.
Mount Olive earned its way to the Elite Eight by winning the Southwest Region Championship with an 82-75 victory over Montevallo. The Trojans, who ran through the Conference Carolinas with a 19-1 record, entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed in region, after getting upset in the conference tournament.
Mount Olive opened the NCAA tournament with a 84-75 Georgia Regents University-Augusta, and the Trojans then took out Lincoln Memorial (75-55) in the second round.
Five-foot-nine junior point guard Dontrell Brite, who was named to the 2014-15 NABC All-Southeast Region first team, leads the way for the Trojans. Brite averages 14.1 points and 5.6 assists a game, while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor, including 38.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Jordan McClain (13.2 ppg), junior guard Jaquan Blount (10.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.2 apg), senior guard Kendall Hargrove (10.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg), and junior forward Dominique Reed (10.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg) also are averaging double figures for Mount Olive. Hargrove tallied a season-high 21 points, on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor, to lead the way against Montevallo. Blount contributed 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the Sweet 16 game, while McClain added 15 points, and Brite doled out seven assists.
Mount Olive is making its second ever Elite Eight appearance.
Tarleton State is back in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2006, after earning a thrilling 66-64 victory over Angelo State in the South Central Region championship game. This is the Texans’ third trip to the Elite Eight, all occurring under head coach Lonn Reisman. Reisman was overjoyed with Tarleton State’s accomplishment.
“First of all, I’d like to give God all the glory for the win. I’ve been blessed to coach a great group of young men this season and it is truly a blessing. I can’t say enough about what it means to be able to take this group – especially these seniors – to the Elite Eight. I’ve been there twice and it’s so hard to get there. I know because I’ve waited seven years to even get the opportunity to play in this game and even longer to play an Elite Eight. It’s great to be able to share that with this group.”
First team NABC All-South Central selection, Mo Lee, who tallied 14 points in the regional final, leads the way for the Texans with 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds a contest. Senior forward TaShawn Mabry is second on the team in scoring (12.6), while junior guard Michael Hardge contributes 10.5 points and 3.6 assists a game.
Senior forward Davene Carter, who was named the South Central Region Most Outstanding Player, tallied 21 points in the Texans 71-52 first round victory over St. Mary’s. Tarleton State defeated University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (84-62) in the second round.
Tarleton State’s 30 victories is a school record.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania is back in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2010, where they fell in the title game. It is the Crimson Hawks’ sixth trip to the Elite Eight overall.
Junior guard Brandon Norfleet sent the Hawks soaring past No. 5 West Liberty (77-74) in the Atlantic Region final with a three-pointer with 7.4 seconds left. Norfleet finished the game with nine points, on 4-of-8 shooting.
IUP entered the Region tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Crimson Hawks defeated Glenville State (73-53) and Slippery Rock (73-65), before taking down West Liberty.
Senior guard Devante Chance, who was named first team All-Atlantic Region, stepped up his play in the Atlantic Region tournament. He averaged 19.0 points, 5.1 assists, and shot 59.4 percent from the field, including 54.5 percent from three-point range during the regional tournament.
Chance leads four Crimson Hawks in double figures, averaging 16.5 points and 5.8 assists a game. Senior guard Shawn Dyer (14.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Norfleet (11.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and junior forward Daddy Ugbede (10.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg) also average double-figures. Dyer was named the Atlantic Region MOP.
Azusa Pacific defeated California Baptist (91-79)at home to take the West Region crown. This marks the first year that the Cougars are eligible for Division II postseason play.
Azusa Pacific, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, opened up regional play with a 75-67 victory over Western Oregon and then defeated Cal Poly Pomona (77-67) in the second round.
The Cougars are a veteran team and led by senior guard Troy Leaf, who enters the Elite Eight ranked No. 7 in the nation with 23.4 points a game. He is also shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from beyond the arc. Leaf was named the West Region’s MOP.
Senior guard Robert Sandoval is the only other player to average double figures (10.0 ppg) for the Cougars, who are 18th in the nation in scoring at 83.8 points a game.
Game time is at 3:30 p.m.
Florida Southern has run straight through its opponents this year, winning by an average margin of 14.2 points (No. 10 in the nation). The Moccasins, who are making their 10th ever Elite Eight appearance, is on a 22-game winning streak.
Florida Southern earned its way to the quarterfinals as the South Region champions. The Mocccasins opened up regional play with a 89-68 victory over Benedict, and then squeaked by West Georgia 84-81, before dispatching Lynn 88-80 in the regional finals.
Senior guard Kevin Capers leads the way for Florida Southern with 21.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. Capers, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the South Region, had 24 points against Lynn, while Dylan Travis led the way with 25 points.
Senior guard Stephen Battle (13.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and senior guard Tyler Kelly (10.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.9 apg) are other double figure scorers for FSC, which ranks fifth in the nation in scoring with 88.7 points a game.
Southern New Hampshire (23-7) captured the East Region title to earn its seventh Elite Eight appearance. The Penmen defeated Stonehill (71-59) in round one, University of the Sciences (59-53) in the second round, and Southern Connecticut State (75-58) in the East final.
SNHU has won 17-of-19 games. Junior guard Rodney Sanders (17.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) leads the way for the Penmen, who are eighth in the nation in field goal percentage defense. Senior Elijah Bonsignore (15.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and junior B.J. Cardarelli (10.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg).
Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Minnesota State-Moorhead (35-3) reached its first ever Elite Eight with a 49-42 victory over Northwest Missouri State to win the Central Region crown. The Dragons also defeated Pittsburgh State (80-68) in round one and Central Missouri (71-60) in round two.
Senior guard Jordan Riewer (16.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.7 apg) leads the way for Minnesota St. – Moorhead. Riewer has 1,378 career points and is a prolific three-point shooter, making a school record 225 triples for his career. The Dragons leads the nation with 372 triples, and has a Division II best assist-to-turnover ratio 1.85-to-1.
Six-foot-nine junior, Isaac Seville, (12.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg), sophomore guard Aaron Lien (12.3 ppg), and junior guard Tyler Lien (12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg). Seville was named the Central Region’s Most Outstanding Player.
Bellarmine (30-3) returns to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012 and third time overall, according to Bellarmine men’s basketball website. The Knights, who have won their quarterfinal games in both previous appearances, defeated No. 15 Indianapolis 81-72 to win the Midwest Region championship. Bellarmine also has defeated Drury 84-60 and No. 22 Lake Superior State (85-59) in the NCAA first and second round, respectively.
Bellarmine averages 81.0 points a game while shooting a nation’s best 53.4 percent from the floor. The Knights are also holding opponents to 39.5 percent from the floor, which ranks No. 7 in the nation.
Senior forward Jake Thelan was named the Midwest Region’s Most Outstanding Player, after recording 24 points and 15 rebounds against Indianapolis. Thelan averages 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds a game, and has produced 17 double-doubles this year. He also ranks third nationally in field goal percentage at 66.7 percent.
Five-foot-nine senior guard, Chris Whitehead, (14.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.3 apg) along with a pair of sophomores, Josh Derksen (11.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg), and Rusty Troutman (11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg), also average double figures for Bellarmine.
Game time is set for 9:30 p.m.
[Photo via Florida Southern College Athletics]