This weekend both basketball teams will be playing in the NCAA Division II regional basketball tournaments. While the men are playing in Huntsville, Alabama, the women will be right here in Jackson hosting the tournament for the second consecutive year.
It’s not very often that a team moves up a division and then hosts their region in their first year eligible, but that’s exactly what the women’s team did last year. This year, with a record of 28-3, the Lady Bulldogs are sitting in the first seed, favored to win their region.
Their first game will be Friday, March 11 in the Fred Delay Gymnasium. Their opponents will be the University of Tampa Spartans, a team with a record of 19-12. Though they’re the last seed in the tournament, a Union win isn’t guaranteed.
“Theoretically we should beat them, but they are a very good team. I mean they did made regionals,” said Jada Smith, freshman undeclared major.
The way the bracket works out, the team will play up to three games this weekend. They need to win each game to advance and keep playing.
Smith is very excited to be playing in such a big game her first year in college basketball, but she says she isn’t surprised the team has made it this far.
“Just because of the work we put in and the expectation for us that’s set not only by the coaches, but by ourselves and the community,” Smith said. “We didn’t want to let anyone down, so now we’re here.”
The men’s team, with a record of 20-10, is the seven seed in their region. In fact, there was worry that they would not make it this far.
“I figured that we had a great chance, because we were in the same situation last year,” said Jordan Montgomery, senior political science major. “I really think beating Alabama Huntsville got us here. But really, take away any one of our wins, and we wouldn’t have made it.”
“We’re thankful to God that we’ve got another chance to prove ourselves as team,” said Ashanti Day, junior sports management major.
The first game will take place Saturday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m. against the Eckerd College Tritons, a team with a record of 25-6. Though the Tritons have a better record, the Union Bulldogs still have a fighting chance.
“The confidence is there, we just have to execute,” Montgomery said. “At the end of the day, the players make the plays. When we’re out there we have to give it all.”
Because the Lady Bulldogs are hosting their tournament on campus, there is not likely to be too many Union fans at the men’s games, but Day doesn’t see it making too much difference in their performance.
“We’re going to come out hungry and more focused,” Day said. “Last year the little mistakes caught up to us. We lost focus, lost our edge.”
The fact that the game will be played in a familiar gym is also in the team’s favor. Hunstville is in the Bulldog’s conference, and the team has played there multiple times before.
“We’ve never played badly in that gym,” Day said.