Courtesy of ODAC
SALEM, Va. --- The 2008 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship is set with four schools ready to make the trip to Salem. Amherst College is back to defend its 2007 NCAA D-III crown following its sectional victory. Hope College and Washington University in St. Louis also make return trips to Virginia's "Championship City." Ursinus College rounds out the field, making its first men's basketball championship visit to the Roanoke Valley.
The national semifinals are set for Friday, March 21. Amherst will take on Ursinus in the opening contest at 5 p.m. Hope and Washington will lock horns at 7 p.m. Two more games follow on Saturday, March 22, with the two losing squads from the first night squaring off in the consolation match at 1:30 p.m. The remaining two teams stand toe-to-toe for a 4 p.m. tip-off to determine the 2008 national champion. All games will be played in the Salem Civic Center.
Amherst (26-3), out of Amherst, Massachusetts, continues its bid to become the second repeat winner of the NCAA D-III men's title in the past five year (UW-Stevens Point in 2004 and 2005). The Lord Jeffs are making their third straight appearance in Salem and fourth in the past five seasons. Aside from winning last season's title, AC finished fourth in the nation in both 2006 and 2004. On Saturday night, Amherst knocked off Brandeis College, 66-55, at the Plattsburgh State Sectional in Plattsburgh, New York. The Lord Jeffs held Brandeis scoreless for nine minutes in the second half as they went on a 17-0 run to secure the victory. Fletcher Walters picked up a double-double with game-highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds. He also blocked three shots. Kevin Hopkins added 12 points and nine boards while Brandon Jones chipped in 11 tallies.
Ursinus (29-2) travels to Salem from about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. The Bears are making their second appearance in the D-III championship series, having finished third in the nation in 1981 (in Rock Island, Illinois). Ursinus pushed its winning streak to 23 games with an 82-76 overtime win over the United States Coast Guard Academy. John Noonan saw just four shots go awry in leading the Bears with 21 points to go with eight rebounds. He hit 4-of-7 from deep and 5-of-5 from the line. Nick Shattuck went for 19 points and another eight boards while Matt Hilton scored 18 points. Michael Schema had a huge contest with 16 points and 15 rebounds (6 offensive).
Hope (27-3) will be making its third trip in the men's basketball championship series with all three appearances coming in Salem. Hope was the runner-up in the inaugural men's basketball championship in Salem in 1996, and again finished second nationally in 1998. The Flying Dutchmen defeated Wheaton College (Ill.), 83-70, to clinch a spot in the series. Hope shot a scorching 57.1-percent from the field including 15-of-24 from beyond the arc. Marcus Vanderheide led the Flying Dutchmen in double figures with 23 points to go with seven rebounds. Derek VanSolkema (15 pts), Jesse Reimink (14), Ryan Klein (13) and Tyler Wolfe (12) combined with Vanderheide to score 74 of Hope's 80 points.
Washington (23-6) makes its second straight trip to Salem from the "Gateway City" in St. Louis, Missouri, having finished third in the 2007 tournament. The Bears feature one of the nation's top talents in senior center Troy Ruths, who recently was honored as the men's basketball recipient of the Jostens Trophy. Ruths scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting to help Wash-U defeat Millsaps College, 57-46, on Saturday night. Tyler Nading chipped in 16 points to go with nine rebounds. Down by nine at the half, the Bears out-scored Millsaps 39-19 in the second half including a 17-2 run to open the final stanza of play. While turnovers hurt both teams (22 for WU; 23 for MC), free throw shooting helped turn the tide for Washington. The Bears made 14-of-16 shots from the line while Millsaps had only four free tries, making three.