INDIANAPOLIS – South Atlantic Conference teams hold the three spots in the initial release by the NCAA of the Region Rankings announced Wednesday afternoon as Carson-Newman sits in the third slot with two weeks to go in the regular season.
The selection committee uses these rankings as a guideline to make up the NCAA Tournament field. The top eight teams in the region make the NCAA Tournament with three automatic bids going to the winners of the conference tournaments from the South Atlantic Conference, Conference Carolinas and the Peach Belt Conference.
For the No. 1 team in the region, that school gets to host the Southeast Region tournament over the second weekend of March with three wins needed to advance to the National Quarterfinals in Columbus, Ohio at Alumni Hall from March 26-29.
The Lady Eagles are 4-4 against the top 10 teams ranked holding a 12-6 record against teams with a .500 record or better, the second-most wins of any team in the region. Of the top 10 teams ranked, Carson-Newman's strength of schedule of .543 is the highest mark. The club's .598 in-region RPI is second among Southeast Region units.
"We have talked about it," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "I try to educate them on what it all means and why you want to schedule tough opponents and I think we have done that. I'm proud of our guys. That's something we want to do here at Carson-Newman is go out and play tough teams. This year it has really benefitted us because we went out of conference and won all of them except one."
Anderson sits on top of the region by a fairly wide margin with a .629 RPI and a 14-1 record against teams with winning records having won 21 straight basketball games with two fewer losses than any other team in the area.
Wingate, thanks to a regular-season sweep of C-N, is in the second slot holding a 4-3 record against other top 10 clubs. The Bulldogs are 11-5 against teams with winning record and have a .592 RPI.
North Georgia, who C-N beat on its home floor on Nov. 17, is fourth with the fourth-best RPI at .584 but the Nighthawks have the second-lowest Division II strength of schedule with a .501 mark.
Lander and Tusculum are in the five and six spots with C-N holding wins against each having an opportunity to sweep the season series with the Pioneers Wednesday evening.
Barton, who was the seven seed a year ago, is the top team from Conference Carolinas and slides into the seventh spot just ahead of Clayton State. Flagler and Emmanuel are the bottom two teams just missing out on a regional bid if the season ended today. Both teams will need their conference tournaments to bolster their resume.
The Lady Eagles get a chance to pad their resume Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against Tusculum inside of Holt Fieldhouse. Broadcast coverage can be found on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and cneagles.com/live starting at 5:45.
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