Playing the No. 1 tournament seed on its home floor doesn’t bother the Colorado Mesa men’s basketball team.
The Mavericks did that on Friday night, when they knocked off Dixie State, the top seed in the RMAC tournament, in St. George, Utah, in front of more than 1,500 pro-Trailblazer fans. The next night you could hear shoes squeaking on the floor, with only 110 fans attending the title game.
The players know that won’t be the case against the Buffs and will use what they experienced against Dixie State to prepare.
“The Dixie game was probably one of the most intense games of the year,” junior center Ethan Richardson said. “The next night we were really dialed in from the start. We knew what was at stake and what we wanted to do, so the crowd didn’t matter, whether there was 10,000 people there or 10.”
Saturday, the Mavericks (21-10), face West Texas A&M (32-1) in the quarterfinals of the South Central Regional tournament in Canyon, Texas. Game times will be determined today. The semifinals are Sunday, with the title game Tuesday.
“We’re not afraid to play a No. 1 seed on their home floor,” junior guard Jared Small said. “We did that last weekend. We’re going to go out there and try to make a name for ourselves.”
After winning the RMAC title on Saturday night by defeating Colorado School of Mines, the Mavericks earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs and Sunday night received the No. 8 seed.
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams gathered Sunday night for the NCAA selection show. For the men, it was a first since 2011, when the Mavericks made it to the North Central Regional. CMU has been to the regionals six previous times and is 1-7 in those games.
“We look at it as we have nothing to lose,” Richardson said. “We’re going to go out and play as hard as we can no matter what. No matter what happens, that’s how this team is. We don’t care who we play, we’re just going to go out and play CMU basketball.”
In Mesa’s half of the bracket is No. 4 Angelo State (20-8), which faces No. 5 Texas A&M-Kingsville (21-9). St. Edward’s (27-4) got the No. 2 seed and plays No. 7 Dallas Baptist (21-9), with No. 3 Dixie State (23-7) playing No. 6 Colorado Mines (22-10).
The men’s tournament begins Saturday, with the semifinals Sunday and the title game Tuesday.
Selection show watch parties have become an annual thing for the women, who won their second straight RMAC tournament title and qualified for the regionals for the sixth time, the fifth in Taylor Wagner’s eight seasons as head coach. Mesa is 6-5 in regional play, with one trip to the Elite Eight.
The Mavs (26-5) groaned a little when they learned they’ll play Westminster (24-7) in the first round, the team they defeated for the conference title. The RMAC rivals will meet for the fourth time this season at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The semifinals are Saturday and the title game Monday night.
“We guessed it, right?” Wagner told his team after the selections were announced.
The women’s tournament begins Friday in Lubbock, Texas, with defending national champion Lubbock Christian (28-3) the No. 1 seed and facing No. 8 Angelo State (18-10). CMU is in Lubbock’s half of the bracket, which could set up a rematch of last season’s regional semifinal.
No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce (28-3) plays No. 7 Eastern New Mexico (22-9), with West Texas A&M (27-6) seeded third and playing No. 6 Western Colorado (20-7), making its first trip to the NCAA playoffs.