C-N men’s hoops earns first-ever NCAA tourney bid
JEFFERSON CITY — Carson-Newman’s men’s basketball team is postseason bound for the first time in more than 10 years. The Eagles also earn their first ever NCAA Tournament berth by an at-large bid.
“We’re thrilled, especially for our seniors,” Carson-Newman head men’s basketball coach Chuck Benson said. “We told them to be consistent and win games, and hopefully our resume would speak for itself. We’re thankful that we were able to put it all together.”
The Eagles are seeded seventh in the Southeast Region and have a first round draw with second-seeded and nationally ranked arch-rival Lincoln Memorial Saturday at a time to be determined at regional host USC-Aiken.
“We know they are a quality opponent and Josh (Schertz) has them doing seemingly everything well,” Benson said. “We have such a familiarity with them that we know it won’t be anything other than a 40-minute battle.”
The Eagles and Railsplitters split the regular season meetings. C-N won 79-77 in Holt Fieldhouse, while LMU took a 77-60 decision in Tex Turner Arena.
Carson-Newman is 1-0 all-time against LMU in postseason play. C-N triumphed 86-74 over the Railsplitters in the 1984 NAIA District Tournament.
Carson-Newman was knocked out of the South Atlantic Conference quarterfinals by Coker in a seven versus two seed upset 80-72.
C-N gathered its players in the team locker room for a viewing party of NCAA.com’s selection show, which revealed the Eagles had earned a spot in postseason play. Carson-Newman’s players erupted in cheers when the announcement was made.
The postseason appearance is Carson-Newman men’s hoops first since 2001-02 and its third as a member of Division II (the 93-94 Eagles reached the NCAA tourney after a fifth-seeded C-N club scored an upset over Lenoir-Rhyne in the SAC title game to earn a berth). Carson-Newman made 13 NAIA tournaments from 1960-1984. This will be C-N men’s basketball’s 16th postseason appearance all-time.
A Dale Clayton-coached club topped Johnson C. Smith in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2002 77-66 before bowing out to Shaw 69-68.
The Eagles have been led by first team All-South Atlantic Conference performers Ish Sanders and Antoine Davis all season long. Sanders averages an even 20.0 points while Davis chips in 19.1.
The trip will be the fourth trip to postseason play for fourth-year Eagle head coach Chuck Benson. Benson guided Martin Methodist College to three consecutive NAIA tournament appearances from 2001-03, including back-to-back appearances in the Sweet 16 in 2001 and 2002.
“I learned a couple things from those experiences,” Benson said. “You don’t want to change what you’re doing and miss the experience. You don’t want to be all tied up in knots. You want to be able to soak it all in.”
Saturday’s contest will be the Eagles’ 50th postseason contest all-time. C-N is 33-16 to date.
-From Contributed Reports