Bracketology: Three Games Away from Glory

Tick, tock, tick…

The Lancers men’s basketball team only has three games left in their regular season, and it’s over. So where do they stand?

As of right now Grace is sitting third place in the MCC at 9-4 and 19-8 overall. Pretty good, right?

Sure, but there is still a lot of work to do.

This next week will decide where the men’s team will spend their postseason. Grace plays three ranked teams over the next week with this Saturday’s game at home against No. 36 Spring Arbor (won), then Tuesday at home against No. 13 University of Saint Francis and ending on the road next Saturday against No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan.

Those three games will decide if Grace can win their first regular season conference championship since 1992 and if the Lancers will go to Branson for the NAIA national tourney.

There are two ways to get to Branson for the Lancers. One is to win the MCC tournament. Win the tourney, and you’re going to Branson as an automatic qualifier. If the Lancers don’t win the conference tourney, there is another way to still be dancin’ in Branson: at-large bids to round off the field of 32.

There are 11 and possibly 12 at-large bids (added if Ozarks win the MCAC tourney). The Lancers right now stand at No. 17 in the nation, making us No. 6 in the at-large poll of 11. If you’re not familiar with NAIA Division II basketball, there are 20 automatic bids by either winning the conference tourney, winning the regular season race (happens only in conference with 10 teams or more) or earning one of the 11 or 12 at-large bids. These at–large bids are handed out after the conference tourneys and are based on the final poll done by the raters on March 2. This simply takes all the teams that have automatic bids and counts from the poll down with the teams left until you have the 11th or 12th at-large team. That gives you the field of 32 that gets to go to Branson.

Now, let’s get back to the Lancers, who are in an interesting position right now. Saint Francis is a game ahead of Grace, Huntington is a game behind, and Spring Arbor is a game and a half behind. Grace could even become the MCC regular season champs if they win the tournament and ice-cold Indiana Wesleyan (they’ve lost two in a row) goes 1-2 or worse. (Remember, we play them in our last game). A regular season championship would undoubtedly give the Lancers an at-large bid, and even if they don’t win the tournament, their last three games will be crucial for the MCC tournament seeding.

This is how I see it for the Lancers: Winning the MCC tourney and not worrying about the at-large spots would be nice. On the other hand, winning three games would most likely put us in a good spot for an at-large to go to Branson, as would a 2-1 record coupled with a win in the first round of the MCC tourney.

Anything less than that, and Grace will have to go farther in the MCC Tourney to compensate for the losses in regular season play. Whatever the case, the immediate emphasis has to be on these last three games for the Lancers.

They need to “Come Together,” as their team motto states, to give themselves a chance to play for an NAIA Division II national championship.

By Aaron Minglin

This column was published in the February 11 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

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