There isn’t a clear-cut favorite in this week’s CIAA basketball tournament in Charlotte, and that will open the door for upstarts.
Last year, Bowie State underwhelmed during the regular season but swept the championship against another underdog in Livingstone. When the men’s tournament tips off Tuesday at Time Warner Cable Arena, Bowie State and Livingstone will be among the favorites, having earned first-round byes.
There are plenty of contenders, though, including J.C. Smith, which stumbled to fifth in the South Division but owns a 4-2 record against the league’s top four seeds. The Golden Bulls will play Virginia Union, the North’s sixth seed, at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday.
”I think they’re capable of writing their own story,” J.C. Smith coach Steve Joyner saidof his players. “I think they can go to the tournament and win all four ball games, but they have to be prepared to do so.”
Some story lines to follow this week include:
“That loss last year still hurts,” said CIAA Most Valuable Player Mark Thomas, a senior guard who led the league in scoring at 20.1 points per game and was second in assists at 5.0. “We’re trying to get back there. We didn’t expect to have so many losses early, but we’re here now and we’ve got to finish out the season strong.”
Livingstone has the league’s best offense at 86.8 points a game and the top backcourt combination in Thomas and Jody Hill, who averages 18.9 points. The Blue Bears also have the experience of making the Division II tournament for the first time in school history in 2013.Is Winston-Salem State ready to roll?
“We’ve always been the underdogs since I’ve been here because we’re not the team that you know wins this or wins that,” Fayetteville State senior Tyrrell Tate said. “We’re trying to build a program, and I want to leave a (winning) note on this program.”