At least Whitworth won’t have to catch a long-distance flight to this year’s NCAA Division III basketball tournament.
However, the fourth-ranked Pirates got the next-worst thing Monday morning, when they were sent to Walla Walla for a possible rematch with second-ranked Whitman.
Once again, Whitworth is the victim of geography and the tight purse strings of the NCAA at the DIII level.
The Pirates (23-4), runners-up in the Northwest Conference, will open the tournament in the Whitman gym on Friday against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (22-4), the champions of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Tipoff time is yet to be determined.
The winner will face Whitman (27-0) or Rhodes College (17-10) on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16.
Whitman is the only unbeaten team in the field and owns three wins over the Pirates this year, including an 86-83 decision in the NWC title game on Saturday in Walla Walla. That left Whitworth waiting on an at-large berth, but the Pirates had no worries about missing the field.
“We knew we’d be number two in the West Region and our profile and our resume were very strong,” coach Matt Logie said before practice Monday afternoon.
Normally, a fourth-ranked team would host at through the Sweet 16, but the Pirates won’t host this year because the NCAA funds only three plane flights in the first two rounds of the 64-team tournament.Two of those flights were assigned to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (from the Los Angeles area) and Rhodes (from Memphis, Tennessee).
Claremont comes into the tournament on a four-game winning streak, including six-point wins over Pomona-Pitzer and Cal Lutheran in the SCIAC.
The Stags are shooting 49.3 percent from the field and put up 18 three-point shots a game (making almost 40 percent of them.)
Claremond has three players averaging double-figure scoring, led by Michael Scarlett’s 17.7pgg. Scarlett shoots 47.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Whitworth and CMS have played once before in the NCAA Division III tournament. The Pirates defeated the Stags 81-63 in a first round game played in Spokane in 2009.
Whitworth is coming into the field as an at-large selection after Whitman snapped its streak of 10 straight NWC tournament titles.
The Pirates had won eight straight games until Saturday’s loss at Whitman.
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