Seawolves work up the ranks for Div. II playoff position

The Seawolves made their first appearance in the West Region’s top eight this season for NCAA Division II men’s basketball, coming in at No. six Feb. 15.

Despite the Seawolves’ current ranking, there is a lot that could change in these last two weeks of the regular season. Seven of the top-10 teams in the region are members of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and will play at least one other top ten team before the season is over. Five of those teams will play three games against other top-10 foes to close out the regular season, so nothing is certain about which teams will make it to West Regionals this year.

When the final rankings are released during the second week of March, the top-eight teams in the West Region will advance to the NCAA Division II tournament March 10-13. Currently the location is undecided.

With only three games left on the regular season schedule, the UAA men’s basketball team has high hopes of making the playoffs.

“We think we’ve got a legitimate shot,” Coach Rusty Osborne said. “We’d like to win all of them out. Then we’d know we’d be in, but I think if we lost one we’d still have a good chance.”

The Seawolves lost a crucial game to Western Oregon Feb. 16, but came back Feb. 18 to handily defeat Humboldt State, ranked seventh in the region, 93-78, marking for the first time the Seawolves have ever won at Humboldt State.

UAA’s three remaining opponents will prove to be tough competition, as they all sit in the West Region’s top-10 rankings.

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Fortunately for the Seawolves, the last three games of the regular season will be played at home in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, where they are undefeated at 10-0 this season.

Making the playoffs would be a crowning achievement for this year’s five Seawolf seniors.

“That’s been their goal all year.” Osborne said.

Seniors Adam Fitt-Chappel, Aaron Lawrence and Kemmy Burgess were all members of the Seawolf team that made it to the 2004 NCAA Div. II West Regional quarterfinals. Senior James Hartman, who was red shirted that season, also went with the team.

“He knows the excitement around it, and so that’s been those guys’ goal,” Osborne said.

Both Burgess and Lawrence missed last season, red shirted because of injuries.

“They worked hard to get themselves back healthy,” Osborne said. “So [making the playoffs] has been our goal and hopefully we can continue and reach it.”

The Seawolves face off against their archrival, the UAF Nanooks, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. The last two games of the regular season will be played against Central Washington March 2 and Western Washington March 4 in the WFSC.