By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
For the second time in four years, both Fairmont State University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams have earned NCAA Division II Basketball Tournament berths.
The Falcon men and women learned their tournament fates late Sunday evening during a joint viewing of the selection shows in the school’s library.
FSU’s men (22-8) earned the No. 4 seed in the Atlantic Regional and will face fifth-seeded Livingstone (N.C.) College (22-6) Saturday at West Liberty University’s ASRC. Game time for the contest will be announced today.
The Lady Falcons (23-9), meanwhile, will be the eighth seed in the women’s Atlantic Regional and battle top-seeded and host school Gannon (Pa.) University (28-4) Friday at the Hammermill Center in Erie, Pa. The game time for that contest will also be announced today.
Fairmont’s men, who finished just 8-19 last season, enjoyed one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation in NCAA Division II this year. The Falcons recorded 14 more wins than they did a year ago, which is the biggest turnaround in school history.
Livingstone, on the other hand, also enjoyed success as the Blue Bears recorded their first 20-win season in school history this year.
“It’s definitely exciting for us,” said FSU senior guard Isaac Thornton. “Our goal was to be in the NCAA Tournament from the start of the season and now we’ve achieved that, but we also want to take advantage of it.
“We play Livingstone and right now we don’t know a lot about them, but to be honest it doesn’t matter who we play because at this point you know every team in the region is good. We just want to prove what we can do in the tournament.”
The FSU-Livingstone winner will tangle with the winner of top-seeded West Liberty and eighth-seeded Bowie State on Sunday at the ASRC. The other four teams in the regional include second-seeded Winston-Salem State (21-6), who will battle seventh-seeded Slippery Rock (22-8) and third-seeded Indiana (Pa.) University (24-5), which will take on sixth-seeded East Stroudsburg (22-6).
For Fairmont’s women, which earned the WVIAC’s automatic bid to the national tournament by virtue of claiming their third conference tournament championship in six years, their eighth-seeding comes as no surprise.
“Honestly this seed is not a surprise for us,” said Lady Falcons’ coach Steve McDonald. “We expected to be the eighth seed and we expected Gannon to be the top seed. They’re awfully good. We’ll need to give our best effort in order to have an opportunity.”
FSU and Gannon, which is ranked seventh in the nation this season in the latest USA Today/Coaches Top 25 poll, squared off in the Lady Falcons’ last NCAA Division II Tournament appearance in 2010. The Lady Knights, who were ranked No. 1 in the nation that year, defeated the Lady Falcons, 92-65.
“It’s kind of odd that we played them my freshman year and now we’re playing the exact same team my senior year, but we’re excited about this opportunity,” said Lady Falcon senior point guard Kaitlin Snyder. “We know Gannon is very good. They’re ranked first in the region for a reason.
“But I think we’re a good team, too, and we’ve proven that lately. We know our coaching staff will have us well prepared. This is the national tournament. It’s what you play for. Every team in this tournament is good and deserves to be here.”
The FSU-Gannon winner will face the winner between fourth-seeded Indiana (Pa.) University (22-8) and fifth-seeded Bloomsburg (24-5) on Saturday. The other half of the bracket has second-seeded Edinboro (22-6) taking on seventh-seeded California (Pa.) University (20-8) and third-seeded Shaw (25-4) battling sixth-seeded Glenville State (26-3) on Friday in Erie, Pa.