Saturday Play: Dustdevils
Basketball Ranks High in Region
In an already wildly successful 2013-14 season, Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) men's and women's basketball is nowhere near done. Both teams cracked the top 10 of the NCAA Division II's South Central Regional rankings, the association announced on Wednesday.
The TAMIU Dustdevils women (19-6, 15-4 Heartland), who have already clinched the Heartland Conference regular season championship in a historic season, ranked No. 5 in the region. The men (20-7, 13-4 Heartland) enter the poll at No. 7.
Both teams close their regular seasons Saturday, March 1 in San Antonio at St. Mary's University before preparing for the Heartland Conference Tournament on March 7-8. Thanks to their regular season title, the women will host the tournament in Laredo, while the men's tournament site is yet to be determined due to the league's current standings – which see the Dustdevils and the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith tied at the top.
The regular season finale will come against TAMIU's South Texas rival, St. Mary's, on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Dustdevils Department of Athletics is sending a Fan Bus to San Antonio for the game, with the travel package and game tickets costing only $10 for students with valid TAMIU OneCards and $20 for general admission. Fans can sign up at https://secure.touchnet.com/C20208_ustores/web/store_main.jsp?STOREID=46
The NCAA regional rankings determine the postseason participants for the NCAA Division II Tournament. Eight teams will play in the South Central Regional. Automatic berths are granted to the Heartland Conference, Lone Star Conference and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champions. The remaining five spots will be filled with at-large bids. The top-ranked team after the conference tournaments will host the eight-team regional. The NCAA Division II Selection Show is scheduled for March 9 at 9:30 p.m.
Both the men's and women's teams received votes toward a national top 25 ranking as well. The men received one vote in the poll released Feb. 25; the women received three votes.
Neither team has ever earned a national top 25 ranking, adding a greater impact to those votes received this year.
This year has been one of acclaim and achievement for the Dustdevils women. And TAMIU is one game away from closing its first-ever winning season – after competing in the NCAA since the 2007-08 season.
All of that success comes in head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson's second year leading the program. In her first year, the Dustdevils fell a heart-bursting game short of finishing in fourth place and qualifying for the conference tournament.
For the men, one last game will decide who will wear the conference crown and host the postseason tournament – to be played by the league's top four finishers. Traditionally, the regular season champion hosts the tournament, but in the case of a tie for first place, both teams would be crowned co-champions and a series of tiebreakers would determine which school hosts.
UAFS closes its season at home against Rogers State (15-9, 10-6 Heartland), while TAMIU (20-7, 13-4 Heartland) visits third-place St. Mary's (17-7, 10-6 Heartland) on March 1.
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