Men’s hoops opens in fourth in initial region rankings

INDIANAPOLIS  – Carson-Newman's men's basketball program has been ranked fourth in the first Southeast Region Rankings, the NCAA announced Wednesday afternoon. 

The Eagles are one of three South Atlantic Conference institutions that appear in the rankings, which will help decide who moves on to the NCAA tournament in March. 

Fellow South Atlantic Conference institutions Lincoln Memorial and Queens occupy the top two sports. UNC Pembroke sits a spot in front of the Eagles in third. 

Carson-Newman has been regionally ranked in four consecutive polls now.  The Eagles were either ninth or 10th in last year's rankings, and were the first team out for last year's Southeast Region tournament. 

The Eagles are looking for their third NCAA tournament appearance under Chuck Benson and their first since the 2014-15 season. 

The Southeast region is comprised of the SAC, Peach Belt and Conference Carolinas. The three tournament champions of those leagues and the top five at-large teams following the conference tournaments qualify for the NCAA Division II Tournament in mid-March.

The Peach Belt is represented by four teams in the rankings, UNCP sits in third, Clayton State is fifth, Francis Marion is sixth and Augusta rounds out the top 10. 

Conference Carolinas locks in three of the final four spots in the poll.  Lees-McRae and King,whom Carson-Newman beat in overtime 92-91 in November,  sit in position to get in in seventh, and eighth, respectively.  Mount Olive is the first team out in ninth. 

The NCAA Tournament begins March 10 with the start of the Southeast Regional. The NCAA Division II Elite Eight is being hosted in Sioux Falls, S.D. for the second year in a row. That event begins with the national quarterfinals on March 20 and ends when a national champion is crowned on March 24.

Carson-Newman takes on Tusculum in the resumption of the annual rivalry game with the Pioneers Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Pregame coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff starting at 7:45. Fans can hear the programming on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at 

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