Playing host to the West Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons, the defending national champion and regional top seed Western Washington University men's basketball team faces No.8 seed Chaminade in an opening-round game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 15, at Sam Carver Gymnasium.
The Vikings, No. 2 in the latest USA Today Sports/ESPN NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, are 27-2 overall. They won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular season title with a 17-1 record, the best in conference history, before falling to Seattle Pacific 72-70 in the GNAC tournament championship game Saturday.
"It's been quite a ride to get to this point," said WWU coach Tony Dominguez, the GNAC co-Coach of the Year.
"We're extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our home crowd, and I hope we don't disappoint them."
If victorious in the opening round, the Vikings would face the winner of the No. 4 Dixie State (22-6) versus No. 5 Cal State San Bernardino (19-8), who meet Friday at 5 p.m. in a semifinal contest Monday at 7:30 p.m, with the championship game Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. The regional champion advances to the NCAA II Elite Eight at Louisville, Kentucky.
On the other side of the bracket, Friday's opening-round games feature No.3-seed Seattle Pacific (25-3) meeting No.6 Grand Canyon (23-7) at 12 noon, and No.2-seed Cal Poly Pomona (27-2) facing No.7 Chico State (19-10) at 2:30 p.m., with the semifinal Monday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets for the regional tournament go on sale Monday at 11 a.m. and can be purchased by calling 360-650-2583. Reserved tickets, which go on sale Wednesday at 2 p.m., are $12. General admission is $8, and students, youth and seniors with ID are $5. Tickets are good all day for multiple-game dates.
The Vikings are led by senior guard John Allen, the GNAC Player of the Year and a pre-season All-American. Allen is averaging 17.3 points and 4.0 assists.
Senior forward Paul Jones, like Allen a first-team all-GNAC selection, averages 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 59.2 percent (167-of-282) from the field. Junior guard Richard Woodworth, a second-team all-conference pick, contributes 10.4 points and 3.3 assists.
Completing the starting lineup that has been the same for all 29 games are junior forward Austin Bragg, who averages 8.9 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds, and senior center Chris Mitchell, who provides 8.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and a team-best 1.4 blocks.
Chaminade (17-9) is led by PacWest Player of the Year De'Andre Haskins, who averages team-highs of 19.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. Bennie Murray, a second-team all-conference pick, adds 17.1 points a contest.
The Vikings defeated Chaminade, 93-83, in Honolulu on Nov. 14, just five days before the Silverswords upset NCAA Division I Texas, 86-73, at the Maui Classic.
"We played them early in the season and were very impressed," Dominguez said. "They're a very talented team with multiple guys who are threats. We're looking forward to the challenge."
All regional contests involving WWU can be heard live on KPUG Radio (1170 AM - www.kpug1170.com) with Doug Lange handling play-by-play and Mark Scholten providing (analyst) color commentary. A webcast and live stats are also available at www.wwuvikings.com.
This is WWU's sixth regional appearance, and the Vikings are hosting for the fifth time. They hosted a six-team regional in 2001, and after the NCAA II tournament expanded, hosted eight-team regionals in 2005, 2009 and 2012. They also played host to a sub-regional as the No.2 seed in the West in 2010. The only time that WWU competed in a regional that it did not host was in 2006.
WWU took the West Regional last year on its way to winning the NCAA Division II national championship. The Vikings also captured the regional title in 2001 and advanced to the national semifinals, and they reached the regional final in 2006.