Men’s basketball: Bears host Westminster to start NCAA tourney

| Sports Editor

The “Bracket of Death” is no more. One year removed from the infamous NCAA tournament bracket placement, the No. 1 Washington University men’s basketball team is looking at a much less strenuous road to Salem, Va.

“It’s definitely a little different than the feeling that we came out of here with last year, but any team that makes it into the NCAA tournament is a good team,” senior co-captain Aaron Thompson said.

The Bears will host the first and second rounds of the tournament, opening against Westminster (Mo.) College. Westminster (20-7, 13-3 SLIAC) earned an automatic bid from the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The two teams met in a scrimmage earlier this season.

“The closest game we had last year was the first game, so really, [seeding] is immaterial,” head coach Mark Edwards said. “Every team that is in the tournament is deserving of being in the tournament, and every team that is in the tournament is coming to win it.”

If Wash. U. gets past the Blue Jays, it could potentially face Illinois Wesleyan University in the second round. The Bears defeated the Titans 76-71 in a heated contest on Nov. 22. The other potential opponent is No. 25 Central College (Iowa).

“We’ve had so much development since we’ve played those guys…so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” senior co-captain Cameron Smith said.

Also in the pod (the division of 16 teams) are No. 4 St. Thomas University, No. 8 University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and No. 15 University of Texas-Dallas.

“It’s nice to play at home, but after that, it doesn’t really matter who we play, because we’re going to have to beat them anyway,” Smith said.

Tip-off against Westminster will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 5.

“Westminster is a good team,” Thompson said. “We’ve really just got to be ready to go and on top of our game and get things clicking early.”

View the full men’s basketball NCAA bracket here.