If you’ve kept up with the Division II postseason during basketball this March, you can see just how tough the PSAC really is.
Two PSAC teams will play for Division II titles with Cal U’s women’s team tipping off tonight at 8 p.m. against California Baptist and IUP’s men’s team squaring off against Florida Southern at 3 p.m.Saturday.
The crazy thing? Neither of those teams were the top PSAC team heading into the postseason.
Cal’s women’s squad was second behind a tough nationally-ranked IUP team as the PSAC regular season came to a close. IUP had just two losses heading into the PSAC tournament as the No. 1 seed, and, surprise surprise, they both came at the hands of the Lady Vulcans. The wins for Cal came by a combined score of 149-113.
IUP’s only other loss came to West Chester in the PSAC semifinals. Cal went on to beat West Chester for the PSAC crown, 86-70. In fact, Cal won all of its tournament games by an average of 14.6 points, showing just what can happen if you truly catch fire.
Its been all up hill since then for Cal U, though.
In the NCAA Atlantic Regional, the Lady Vulcans took the top seed and disposed of Virginia State and West Liberty to advance to the Sweet 16 regional final against yet another PSAC foe, Bloomsburg. There, it took overtime for the Lady Vulcans to advance to the Elight Eight. Cal again needed OT to advance past Nova Southeastern to make it to the Final Four, where the Lady Vulcans slipped past Emporia State.
It may not have had a direct result, but since the passing of Cal women’s basketball player Shanice Clark, the Lady Vulcans are 18-1 and own an 18-game winning streak into Friday night’s title game.
On the men’s side, IUP had second fiddle to Gannon for most of the season.
The Crimson Hakws were picked behind Gannon as favorites for most of the season and suffered back-to-back losses to Merychurst and Gannon early in the season to fall behind in the standings. When it seemed they had gotten back on track after topping Gannon the next time around, the Crimson Hawks fell to Mercyhurst and Edinboro in back-to-back games toward the end of the season.
But things picked up in the postseason.
Much like Cal’s women’s team, IUP surged through the PSAC Tournament, winning its first three games by an average of 14.3 points per game. But then IUP met Gannon in the PSAC finals and lost, 69-66.
Their postseason run combined with their season’s body of work was good enough for an NCAA berth and the Crimson Hawks took full advantage of it.
In the Atlantic Regional, IUP opened things up with a 20-point shellacking of Glenville State, which won the Mountain East Conference Tournament. From there, IUP grinded out wins against Slippery Rock and West Liberty, the MEC regular season champion and a top five team that made it to last year’s national title game.
Once into the Elite Eight, IUP came back to knock off both Azusa Pacific and Tarleton State by a combined eight points.
Now IUP will have to topple the overall No. 1 seed in Florida Southern.
Make no mistake about it, both Cal U and IUP entered the postseason as battle-tested squads in one of the top conferences in all of Division II. No even winners of their own conference during the regular season, both squads have a chance to cap their season off with a national championship.
Cal U’s women’s team won a national title back in 2004 while IUP is searching for its first in school history after falling short in the championship game in 2010.
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