Monday, March 12, 2018
WHEN the dust settled on “Selection Sunday,” four Bahamian players and their respective universities received bids into the 68-team field for the NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament, commonly referred to as “March Madness.”
Two of those teams – Deandre Ayton and the Arizona Wildcats and the Nathan Bruins and the Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks - received automatic bids as conference tournament champions, while Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr and the Michigan State Spartans received an at large bid.
The Wildcats were named the No.4 seed in the South region, hosted in Boise, Idaho. They will face the Buffalo Bulls on Thursday March 15. Buffalo is 26-8 this season, including a league-best 15-3 record in the MAC.
Arizona concluded the season with their second consecutive PAC-12 title and ninth in school history with a 75-61 win over the University of Southern California Trojans on Saturday night.
Ayton finished with 32 points and 18 rebounds in one of the most dominating performances in Pac-12 Tournament history.
After a slow start to the tournament with 10 points and six rebounds against Colorado, Ayton bounced back with a 32-point, 14-rebound performance in a semi-final win over UCLA. Ayton was named the tournament MVP for his efforts.
The Wildcats finished the season with a 27-8 record. The Lumberjacks are ranked No. 14 in the East Region and will play the No. 3 ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders on March 15 in Dallas, Texas. In the Southland Conference, the Lumberjacks added their names to the list of automatic bids when they won the conference title with a 59-55 win over regular season champion Southeastern Louisiana.
Following a first round bye, they outlasted the Central Arkansas in the quarter-finals and defeated the Nicholls State in the semi-finals. It was their fourth conference title in the last five years. Nairn and the No.4 nationally ranked Spartans received an at large bid and were named the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region. They face the No.14 Bucknell Bison on March 16 in Detroit, Michigan. It is the 21st straight year the Spartans (29-4) have made the NCAA field under coach Tom Izzo, in his 23rd season. That ranks as the third-longest active streak among Division I schools and fifth-longest all-time.
The Spartans fell in the semi-finals of the Big 12 tournament, 75-64 to the Michigan Wolverines.
The NCAA tournament is scheduled to begin on March 13, and will conclude with the championship game on April 2 at Alamodome in Arlington, Texas.
Several other Bahamian players competed in conference championships this week, however, did not advance to the tournament.