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March Madness v2.0: Wildcat teams on tourney trail

By on March 9, 2020 in Sports with 0 Comments

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Fans at basketball game

Photos by Jeremy Enlow

That ride was so much fun, let’s do it again.

Whether you dust off your “Texas Two Step” or “First Dance” T-shirt from last year or start shopping for a new souvenir one, Wildcat basketball fans’ adrenaline will kick into high gear this week as Abilene Christian University men’s and women’s teams head south on Spring Break week for another shot at March Madness.

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Senior guard Breanna Wright leads the ACU women into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Senior guard Breanna Wright leads the ACU women into the quarterfinals of the Hercules Tires Southland Conference Tournament.

Last year, both teams made history by each earning automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament in their first year of eligibility. This spring they appear primed once more for postseason glory, starting with the Hercules Tires Southland Conference Tournament in Katy, Texas.

 The second-seeded men (20-11 overall, 15-5 in the Southland) and third-seeded women (23-6 overall, 15-5 in the Southland) earned valuable byes with their excellent play in the regular season. To qualify for the NCAA Tournament, Joe Golding’s semifinalist team will need to win two in Katy and Julie Goodenough’s quarterfinalist team will need to win three.

It all starts Friday in the Leonard E. Merrell Center, where the women play the winner of Game 2 (Nichols vs. Incarnate Word) at 1:30 p.m. CST in the quarterfinals, and the men will take on the winner of Game 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the semifinals. 

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The ACU men’s team secured a No. 2 seed and byes into the semifinals of the Southland Conference tournament.
The ACU men’s team secured a No. 2 seed and byes into the semifinals of the Hercules Tires Southland Conference Tournament.

The league will crown its men’s champion Saturday night (8:30 p.m., broadcast on espn2.com) and the women on Sunday (1 p.m. Sunday on CBS Sports Network). Both champs will earn a coveted automatic qualifier ticket for the NCAA Tournament.

Two exciting games played last Tuesday night in Moody Coliseum might have been a preview of the Southland tourney finals. Both involved Abilene Christian hosting teams from league-leading Stephen F. Austin State University. The ACU women won in a rout, 88-62, and the men lost narrowly, 77-72. Both games featured more than 100 Mexican free-tailed bats flying laps above or around Dee Nutt Court.

The women’s team has won at least 20 games five times in eight years (23-10 in 2018-19, 23-9 in 2016-17, 26-4 in 2015-16 and 21-7 in 2012-13). Goodenough’s team ranks in the nation’s Top 10 in making and defending three-point shots, and in overall field goal percentage, and has consistently been ranked in the top 20 of the Mid-Majors national poll.

The hallmark this year for Golding (’99) and his team has been defense. The Wildcats last week ranked No. 2 in the nation in forcing turnovers (nearly 30 percent of their opponent’s possessions). ACU is 0-8 when allowing 72 or more points and 20-3 when it holds opponents under 72, and has won 20 or more games in the regular season in consecutive years for the first time in program history.

 Last March, Golding’s team earned a No. 15 seed and a trip to the Midwest regional in Jacksonville, Florida, to face No. 2-seeded Kentucky, while Goodenough and her team faced overall No. 1 seed and eventual national champion Baylor in the first round in Waco as a No. 15 seed.

  • Follow the Wildcats in postseason play on acu.today and acusports.com.
  • Purchase tickets for the Southland tournament here or at the Merrell Center ticket office in Katy 90 minutes before each game. Children under age are admitted free, as are ACU students with university ID.
  • Watch exclusive coverage of the first, second and semifinal rounds on ESPN+.
  • Relive the magic of 2019 in ACU Today’s coverage:

 

 

 

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