Warhawks earn NCAA bids
WHITEWATER UW-Whitewater’s men’s and women’s basketball teams each received at-large bids Monday to the NCAA Division III tournaments.
The Warhawk women
(20-7) will host first and second-round regional games Friday and Saturday. Whitewater plays the University of St. Thomas (21-7), following the 5:30 p.m. opener, which matches Carthage (22-4) against Northland (18-8).
Whitewater’s women’s team is making its third straight and 10th overall appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile, the Warhawk men’s team (22-5) heads to Wooster, Ohio, where it faces Defiance College (23-5) of Ohio in a first-round regional game Friday. Wooster (23-5) will host Grove City College (19-8) of Pennsylvanial in the other first-round semifinal.
The Whitewater men’s team is making its third straight NCAA appearance and 16th overall.
Both Whitewater teams lost Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship games last weekend to UW-Stevens Point. The Pointers each earned automatic NCAA berths as tournament champions.
The Stevens Point men
(23-4) host Carlton College (19-9), while Hope College (21-7) will meet St. Norbert College (22-3) on Friday. The Pointer women (21-6) face Minnesota-Morris (19-7) on Friday in De Pere, while host St. Norbert (22-3) will face Calvin College (24-4) in the other semifinal.
Whitewater coach Pat Miller was certain his team would receive its third straight NCAA tournament bid, but he didn’t think the Warhawks would be traveling to Ohio.
“It was something I didn’t anticipated,” Miller said of a road trp to Ohio. “I didn’t think we’d be sent there. But it’s not a terrible thing because there is something to be said for playing outside the region.’’
Miller said he thought the NCAA was making amends for last season’s tournament assignments, which drew criticism.
“The Midwest bracket had eight of the 11 top teams in it and it was called ‘The Bracket of Death,’ ” Miller said. “The NCAA drew a lot of flack, and I think this year they made an effort to put more balance in the brackets.’’
Miller said he was disappointed the Warhawks did not win the WIAC tournament, but he added the team has always bounced back well from losses.
“It bothered me because I don’t like to lose, especially on our floor,” Miller said. “But in the greater scheme of things, it’s not much of an issue.
“When we were not successful, we responded well to losses,” Miller said. “We came back refocused and reenergized.’’
Defiance won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship to receive an automatic NCAA bid. The Yellow Jackets enjoyed their best season since joining the NCAA in 1991.
Whitewater coach Keri Carollo sent her players home after the WIAC tournament championship game loss to Stevens Point, but not before telling them to expect the worst.
Carollo said she was uncertain about receiving an NCAA at-large berth, telling her team the season may be over.
“We kind of told them to stay positive, but prepare for the worst,” Carollo said. “It was a tough and very emotional Sunday.’’
Instead, the NCAA not only awarded the Warhawks and at-larger berth Monday, but also made them a first-round host.
“It was a shock,” Carollo said. “We are pretty excited to get into the tournament and have a chance to participate.’’
Carollo thinks Whitewater will host the tournament because the Carthage College is hosting a men’s tournament opener.
“It ended up at our place, because the host team flip-flops every year,” Carollo said.
The University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.) is in the NCAA tournament for the 18th time and is making its second appearance since 2002. St. Thomas won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament for the first time in the 10-year history of the tournament to receive an automatic bid.