Set to make its second national championship tournament appearance ever, and first since 2006, the SUNY Orange men’s basketball team earned the sixth seed in this year’s 16-team National Junior College Athletic Association Division II tournament and were set to play 11th seed Scottsdale Community College at 11 a.m. CT on Wednesday, March 22 in Danville, Ill.
Pairings for the tournament, to be held at the Mary Miller Center at Danville Area Community College from March 21-25, were announced live on the NJCAA Network last week. All teams are guaranteed two games in the tournament, and all contests will be streamed online by the NJCAA Network (https://www.njcaa.org/network/landing/index).
The Colts, who opened the campaign with 28 straight victories, will carry a 29-1 record into their tourney matchup against the Fighting Artichokes (25-7) out of Region 1 in the West District. Scottsdale got off to a slow start at 6-4 in its first 10 games, but reeled off 15 consecutive wins in midseason en route to finishing fourth (15-7) in the highly competitive Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. As the second seed in the West tournament, Scottsdale defeated Chandler-Gilbert 68-54 and then upset top seed Pima 90-69 in the finale.
“We are excited to get an opportunity to play in the national tournament and play against the best teams in the country,” said Tom Rickard, SUNY Orange head coach. “Scottsdale is one of those teams. They are well coached, have really good size and shoot the ball extremely well. This is an exciting day for our school, program and community. A day we have looked forward to for six months. I’m really happy for the guys. They stayed together, were focused and helped each other get better every day. This is a special group of players who really enjoy playing with each other.”
Six of the eight first-round games will be played on March 21: #9 Chesapeake (29-4) vs. #8 Macomb (25-7), 9 a.m.; #14 ASU-Mid South (23-10) vs. #3 Henry Ford (26-4), 11 a.m.; #16 Florida Gateway (15-11) vs. #1 Davidson-Davie (32-0), 1 p.m.; #15 Central (22-9) vs. #2 Niagara County (29-1), 3 p.m.; #13 Johnson County (26-7) vs. #4 Danville Area (24-4), 6:30 p.m.; and #10 Mott (24-8) vs. #7 Milwaukee Area Tech (28-4), 8:30 p.m. Two remaining first-round matchups will take place on March 22, including SUNY Orange’s contest at 11 a.m. followed by #12 Waubonsee (25-8) vs. #5 Iowa Lakes (25-7) at 1 p.m.
A SUNY Orange win in the first round will pit the Colts against the winner of Tuesday’s ASU-Mid South and Henry Ford matchup at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 23. The losers of these two games would meet at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
With 29 wins, second most in the country, the tournament committee was challenged by where to seed the Colts. “The hardest decision we had, quite honestly, was at 5-6 with Iowa Lakes and Orange,” said Chris DePew, D-II men’s basketball committee chairman. “We spent a lot of time talking about the body of work of those two teams. Orange had a tremendous season with only one loss. Iowa Lakes has 6 or 7, but they play in a really tough league. At the end of the day, it came down to a pretty tight vote and a good discussion, but we ended up landing at Iowa Lakes at the 5 and Orange at the 6.”