March 10, 2014
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
Two upset winners at conference tournaments kept the Western Washington University men's basketball team from being in the eight-team field of the NCAA Division II West Regional that was announced Sunday night.
The Vikings, who finished 20-8, missed out on an automatic berth with a 65-62 loss to Seattle Pacific in the championship game of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament.
Despite the loss, it still looked as though WWU, which had won the last two regional titles, would make a third straight appearance. The Vikings were ranked seventh in last week's regional ranking and had rolled to a 73-52 victory over Alaska Fairbanks in a GNAC tourney semifinal.
But two teams not ranked among the top eight regionally, Cal State Stanislaus in the California Collegiate Athletic Association and Chaminade in the Pacific West Conference, were upset winners of their respective tournaments. That earned them automatic berths and effectively knocked WWU out.
Cal State San Bernardino will host the regional on March 14-15 and 17. Also participating, besides Seattle Pacific, Cal State Stanislaus and Chaminade, are Cal Poly Pomona, Chico State, Cal Baptist and Dixie State.
WWU split its final four games, but the losses were by one point in overtime and by three points in each of the other three setbacks.
Four of the Vikings' eight losses were to teams ranked among the top 25 nationally. And, while opening the season with eight wins, WWU knocked of nationally No.1-ranked Metro State, 72-69.
Unlike the past two seasons when WWU won the NCAA II national championship in 2012 and reached the national semifinals in 2013, the Vikings had to deal with injuries to three starters.
WWU will lose three starters to graduation. They include two first-team GNAC all-stars - guard Richard Woodworth (Sr., Bellevue/Newport) and center Austin Bragg (Sr., Longview/Mark Morris) - and guard Robert Harris, Jr. (Sr., Kent/Rainier Beach).