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NCAA Tournament

N.C. Central and Prairie View carry HBCU hopes into NCAA men’s tournament

Southern and Bethune-Cookman await bids in women’s field

The men’s basketball champions from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) will open NCAA play Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in the tournament’s First Four games in Dayton, Ohio.

The Prairie View A&M Panthers, returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years as the SWAC champions, face Fairleigh Dickinson in the first of four games in Dayton at 6:40 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. The winner will face the West Region No. 1 seed, Gonzaga, on Friday.

North Carolina Central, winner of its third straight MEAC men’s tournament title, will play North Dakota State on Wednesday for a chance to play crosstown Duke, the East Region No. 1 seed. That game will be played Friday in Columbia, South Carolina.

All of the First Four games will be aired on truTV.

On March 16, NCCU, down 10 points at halftime, put together a 12-0 run in the first four minutes of the second half against Norfolk State to take a 34-32 lead. The run was keyed by Jordan Perkins (five points), Zacarry Douglas (four points) and Larry McKnight (three points).

“It is no question that was the key to the game,” NCCU coach LeVelle Moton, the tournament’s Outstanding Coach, said. “Jordan did a good job of jump-starting us. The team came out with a different mindset to start the half, and it dictated the rest of the game.”

NCCU won 50-47, with Raasean Davis, voted the tournament’s MVP, scoring eight points and pulling down 14 rebounds. Douglas recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

NCCU (18-15) and North Dakota State (18-15) have played only once before, in November 2007. It was NCCU’s transition year from Division II to Division I, and NDSU won 104-51. NDSU won the Summit League Tournament championship after a 73-63 victory over Omaha on March 12 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

In Houston, Prairie View A&M (22-12) beat Texas Southern (21-13), 92-86, to win the Toyota SWAC Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 16.

The game was tight throughout after the early stages of the first half. But late in the game, Prairie View prevailed by hitting seven straight free throws after the game was tied 85-85 and went on for the victory.

Gary Blackston, the tournament MVP, led Prairie View with 17 points, 6 steals and 4 rebounds. Jalyn Patterson paced Texas Southern with 24 points and five assists.

Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, New Jersey, won the Northeast Conference title March 13 with a 85-76 victory at top-seeded St. Francis (Pennsylvania). Senior Darnell Edge leads the team with 16.4 points a game and is one of five Knights averaging in double figures. Jahlil Jenkins (13.5 per game) and Mike Holloway Jr. (12.5) also spark the offense.

Southern and Bethune-Cookman make women’s tournament field

The MEAC and SWAC women’s champions get automatic bids to the 64-team women’s Division I tournament that will be announced Monday at 7 p.m.

SWAC top seed Southern University beat Jackson State in the title game, 45-41, in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 16, and Bethune-Cookman prevailed against Norfolk State to gain its first NCAA bid since 1984.

Southern (20-12) won its first championship since 2010 behind Alyric Scott, who was named the tournament MVP. She led the Lady Jaguars in scoring with 14 points, followed by Courtney Parsons with nine points and Taneara Moore with eight points.

Jackson State (18-14) didn’t hit a 3-pointer and was 0-of-13, although Marneisha Hamer led all scorers with 17 points, followed by Christina Ellis with 12 points.

Bethune-Cookman’s 57-45 win on March 16 qualified it for its first NCAA appearance. When it won the SWAC championship 25 years ago, it didn’t come with an automatic tournament bid.

BCU trailed 23-17 at halftime, but the Lady Wildcats started the second half on a 14-3 run, taking a 31-28 lead with 3:52 left in the third quarter.

Angel Golden and Amaya Scott took over in the fourth quarter, each with seven points apiece, as the third-seeded Wildcats (21-10) outscored the fourth-seeded Spartans (17-15), 21-12. Golden, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, led BCU in scoring with 18 points, followed by 12 points from Amaya Scott. Chasimmie Brown had 16 rebounds, all defensive.

John X. Miller is the senior HBCU editor for Andscape. He's a father, jazz aficionado and die-hard UNC basketball fan.