It’s very simple for the WWU men’s and women’s basketball teams — three wins and they're in.
But because neither team currently appears among the top 10 in their respective West regional rankings, each Vikings squad will need to win all three games they could potentially play in this week’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament to earn a spot in the NCAA Division II West Regional. And that’s where things get difficult in the single-elimination tournament.
But the Vikings could begin mapping out what it’s going to take to reach that goal after the GNAC released its tournament schedule late Saturday, Feb. 28. All games will be played at Alterowitz Gymnasium at Montana State Billings.
The third-seeded WWU women (19-8) will start things off at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, when they face sixth seeded Central Washington (12-14) in the opening round. The winner will move on to face No. 2 seed Seattle Pacific (21-5) in a tournament semifinal scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, March 6.
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The other side of the women’s bracket will feature No. 4 Simon Fraser (14-12) and No. 5 Saint Martin’s (11-15) in :30 p.m. first-round game on Wednesday for the right to move on to play No. 1 Alaska Anchorage (27-1) in a 1:15 p.m. semifinal Friday. The championship game will be held at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, March 7.
The Western men, who enter as the fifth seed with an 18-10 record, will face No. 4 Alaska Anchorage (16-12) in a 6:30 p.m. first-round game on Thursday, March 5. The winner moves on to play top-seeded Western Oregon (23-5) in a 6:30 p.m. semifinal on Friday.
The other side of the bracket features No. 3 Central Washington (17-8) facing No. 6. Northwest Nazarene (13-15) at 4:15 p.m. Thursday for the right to move on to play No. 2 Seattle Pacific (21-7) in a 4:15 p.m. semifinal on Friday. The championship game will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Though the road seems pretty difficult for both WWU teams, the men enter the tournament on an eight-game win streak dating back to Jan. 31, while the women have won eight of their past 10 games since Jan. 24, with the two losses coming to Seattle Pacific and Alaska Anchorage by a combined seven points.
The Viking women also enter as the defending GNAC Tournament champions. Seattle Pacific is the defending men’s champion, while the Western men are seeking their first GNAC Tournament title since the postseason tournament was instituted in 2011.