BELTON- The UMHB men’s basketball team is headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. And their first round matchup will be contested on their home court.
In a surprising turn of events in Monday’s NCAA Selection Show, it was announced that the Crusaders, despite a loss to Hardin-Simmons in the semifinal round of the ASC Tournament this past Friday, would be hosting a first weekend pod, set for March 3-4.
In other words, for the second straight season, UMHB’s run in the NCAA Tournament will begin in Belton, joined by Schreiner, St. Thomas (TX), and East Texas Baptist University.
UMHB’s first round matchup will be played against Schreiner at 7:20 p.m. on Friday while ETBU, the ASC champion, is set to face St. Thomas (TX) in the opening round. Both UMHB and St. Thomas (TX) are at-large bid qualifiers to the tournament. ETBU and Schreiner each won their respective conferences, claiming automatic bids.
“I’m thankful,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said following the selection announcement. “This goes back to our ability to schedule the games in California and Washington. If we’re not afforded the opportunity to do that by our administration, I don’t know if we build a resume to even get in, much less host.”
Schreiner became the first No. 5 seed to win the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship, when the Mountaineers defeated Trinity (TX) on Sunday in San Antonio, 79-77. Schreiner won all three of its SCAC Tournament games by a combined five points, upsetting St. Thomas (TX), the No. 1 ranked team in Region 10 last week, in Saturday’s semifinal.
The Cru enters the national tournament with a 21-5 overall record, having also gone 16-2 in ASC play en route to the ASC’s regular season title.
UMHB and Schreiner share seven common opponents, as both teams faced Howard Payne, LeTourneau, Concordia, McMurry, Hardin-Simmons, Sul Ross State, and UT-Dallas. UMHB is 13-2 in games against those seven programs, all of whom are in the ASC. Schreiner is 5-3, having played all seven in non-conference play.
“I have the ultimate respect for Marwan [Elrakabawy], who is the coach there,” Carroll said of Schreiner. “They’re definitely playing their best basketball. It’s not even close. They won three tough games to win [the SCAC Tournament]. We have to get into the film room and try to figure out some things.”
Carroll said that in Region 10, where many of the programs are geographically isolated from one another, hosting is often in the question when you post a resume like that of the Cru, who posted an .808 winning percentage and a strength of schedule of .545.
“With the geography in Region 10, we always have a chance because there is going to be a Texas pod more than likely,”
Carroll added. “We’re certainly thankful for the NCAA and [men’s selection committee chair] Sara Quatrocky for giving us this opportunity.”
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.