NCAA Basketball Tournament: No. 1 NW Missouri State Among D-II Sweet 16 Teams

March is the month for NCAA basketball tournaments. While Division I teams just found out their seeds for the 64-team NCAA Tournament, D-II teams are preparing for their Sweet 16 games. The winners of the eight Sweet 16 games will advance to the Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, North Dakota.

NABC’s top-ranked team, Northwest Missouri State, is among seven of the eight No. 1 seeds still alive in the NCAA regional play. NW Missouri State (31-1), which is the top seed in the Central Region, knocked out NCAA D-II defending champs Augustana (74-53) on Sunday night to advance to the regional finals. This is the fourth straight season Northwest has advanced to the regional finals; they have lost in each of the previous three appearances.

Northwest Missouri State has won seven straight games. Justin Pitts leads the Bearcats with 20 points and over five assists a game. Pitts has tallied 49 points in the first two regional games, including 33 in NWMSU’s 79-74 opening round victory over Upper Iowa. Chris-Ebou Ndow is second on the team, with 12.6 points and 6.1 boards, while Zach Schneider is contributing 10 points a contest.

NWMSU faces No. 2 seed Southwest Minnesota State (28-5) in the regional finals in Maryville, Missouri, on March 14. SMSU, which has tied the school record for wins with eight straight. SMSU rallied from a nine-point deficit with nine minutes to defeat No. 3 East Central 74-70 in the second round. The Mustangs defeated Arkansas Tech 93-82 in the first round. They won the regional title in 2001 and 2009.

Ryan Bruggeman leads SMSU with 15.4 points and over five assists a game. Joey Bartlett (12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds), Taylor Schaffer (11.3 ppg), and Carter Kirk (10.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg) are other Mustangs averaging double-figures.

Second-ranked Bellarmine (30-3) and No. 3 Fairmont State (31-2) lead the remaining No. 1 regional seeds. Alabama-Huntsville, Queens (N.C.), Colorado Mines, and UC San Diego are the other top seeds left.

The East Region is the only region not to have either No. 1 or No. 2 seeds remaining. Top-seeded LeMoyne fell to Merrimack in the opening round while seventh-seeded Southern Connecticut State also upended second-seeded Southern New Hampshire in the first round. Neither Merrimack nor Southern Connecticut State advanced to the regional championship. Rather, No. 3 Saint Rose (26-7) will meet No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas (27-5) for the regional crown.

Here are the rest of Sweet 16 matchups

West Region: No. 1 UC San Diego (27-5) vs. No. 6 Chico State (25-7) on March 13 at 10 p.m.

No. 19-ranked UC San Diego is playing in the West Region final for the second straight year. The Tritons, who lost in the region finals to Western Oregon a year ago, has won 10 in a row. UCSD defeated Dixie State (94-68) in the opening round and Cal Baptist (84-80) in the semifinals. CCAA player of the year Alex Kline leads the way for the Tritons.

Chicago State is in the regional finals for the second time in program history. The Wildcats have won two straight and six of eight. Chico State has posted two upset victories during tournament play so far, taking down Western Washington in the opening round and then dealing Hawaii Pacific a 77-74 setback in the semis.

This is the fourth match-up of the season between the CCAA foes. UCSD leads the season series 2-1 with the Tritons taking the last meeting 65-53 in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Atlantic Region: No. 1 Fairmont State vs. No. 6 Wheeling Jesuit on March 14

This is the third meeting between the two Mountain East conference rivals. Fairmont State, on a two-game winning streak, has won the previous two matchups, 95-92 (OT) in Wheeling and 97-86 in Fairmont. The Fighting Falcons are in the regional finals after wins over Bowie State (93-67) and IUP (84-68).

Wheeling Jesuit (25-7) is in a regional final for the first time ever. The Cardinals, who are also on a two-game winning streak, have tournament wins over West Liberty (96-95 OT) and Shippensburg (97-91).

South Region: No. 1 Alabama-Huntsville (26-7) vs. Rollins (23-10), March 14

Alabama-Huntsville is in the South Region final for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. The Chargers have won six straight, topping the 90-point plateau in each of the last three games. UAH has tournament victories over Clark Atlanta and Barry.

Rollins is in the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time. The Tars reached the Elite Eight in 2014. Rollins has won 10 straight with regional tourney victories over Valdosta State and Delta State.

Southeast Region: No. 1 Queens (N.C.) vs. Lincoln Memorial, March 14

Sixth-ranked Queens University (30-3) are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003 when they advanced to the Elite Eight. The Royals’ 30 victories are a program high.

This is the fourth meeting between the programs with Queens taking two of the meetings. The Royals won the first meeting 103-101 in overtime while also grabbing the South Atlantic Championship with a 75-72 win over the Railsplitters in the finals. Queens has won seven in a row overall.

Lincoln Memorial (28-5) is in the regional finals for the second straight year. The Railsplitters have won two straight. Lincoln Memorial’s lone win over Queens (81-79) in Harrogate, Tennessee.

Midwest Region: No. 1 Bellermine vs. No. 6 Findlay (25-6), March 14

South Central Region: No. 1 Colorado Mines (29-4) vs. No. 3 West Texas A&M (26-8), March 14

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