Dave Balza could believe just about anything at this point regarding the South Region rankings. So the head coach was somewhat satisfied when the Florida Gulf Coast University men's basketball team moved back up a spot from seventh to sixth in the final South Region rankings released Wednesday.
The Eagles (27-5 overall, 21-3 in the region) had slid from sixth to seventh last week after losing, 79-65, to Butler, then the No. 13 team in Division I, and routing Marygrove. The Eagles had dropped despite not losing a Division II game since a 77-67 decision to Valdosta State at Alico Arena on Dec. 18.
"The way I'm looking at it is I'm anticipating that they will put the best eight teams in the NCAA tournament from our
region,'' Balza said. "There's a committee that's put together and they will do what they feel is best.''
The Eagles closed their regular season by winning their own National Independent Tournament, 72-68, over Central State (Ohio) in the title game on Tuesday night for their 19th win in their last 20 games, with the Butler loss being the only one. The top eight teams play in the South Region tournament.
"I think we've been playing better these last three weeks than we have all year,'' Balza said. "We've been improving
week by week and we're peaking at the right time. I hope we get a chance to show everybody that.''
The only reason the Eagles may not make the region tournament would be if there are a series of upsets in the three conference tournaments involving region teams -- the Southern Intercollegiate, Gulf South and Sunshine State. All start this week and end up on Sunday.
"Where we're at, I'm thinking we want all of the top seeds to win,'' Balza said.
Balza said he'll likely head over to Lynn to watch some of the Sunshine State tournament where Rollins, No. 2 in the region, is the top seed. Another team from the Sunshine, Barry, is No. 4 in the region and the No. 2 seed in the SSC tourney. Benedict, No. 3 in the region, is the No. 2 seed in the SIAC. Fort Valley State, the No. 10 team in the region, is the top seed. Montevallo, No. 1 in the region, is the top seed from its division at the Gulf South tournament. Henderson State, No. 8 in the region, is the top seed from the West Division.
The public is invited to watch with FGCU officials, coaches and players at Beef O’ Brady’s in Estero for the official announcements Sunday. The men’s bracket will be released at 10 p.m., with the women’s at 10:30 p.m. The announcements also will be released on a live webcast on www.ncaasports.com.
WOMEN STILL NO. 1 The unbeaten FGCU women strengthened their hold on the No. 1 spot in the country. The Eagles (28-0) received 21 of 22 first-place votes in the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA national poll. FGCU had 549 points, with Glenville State College (W. Va.) (27-2) in second with 512. Missouri Western State (27-2) is No. 4 and had the other first-place vote. North Dakota (27-3) is No. 3.
The women got the top seed in the region and likely will host the region tournament on March 9, 10 and 12 at Alico Arena.
Here are the South Region men's rankings through Wednesday, with team, overall record and region record:
1. Montevallo 19-5 18-2
2. Rollins 17-4 15-3
3. Benedict 22-3 20-2
4. Barry 20-5 19-4
5. Valdosta State 16-6 15-5
6. Florida Gulf Coast 21-3 21-3
7. Eckerd 20-5 17-4
8. Henderson State 17-5 15-5
9. Christian Brothers 19-6 16-5
10. Fort Valley State 15-8 15-8