For the second time in three seasons Sunday, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke men’s basketball team received an at-large bid to play in the NCAA Tournament, securing a No. 7 in the Southeast Regional hosted by Peach Belt regular season and tournament champion USC Aiken.
The Braves (22-9) suffered an 81-73 loss to Montevallo — the regional’s sixth seed — over the weekend in the league tournament semis but won six consecutive games prior to postseason play and placed second in the PBC’s East Division to finish with their most victories in 22 years. UNCP will battle second-seeded Lincoln Memorial (24-5) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. inside Aiken’s Convocation Center.
Lincoln Memorial’s Sunday loss to Wingate coupled with Aiken’s win over Montevallo flip-flopped the two teams as potential hosts.
“We’re excited to have a chance to keep playing especially in the NCAA Tournament,” UNCP coach Ben Miller said Monday prior to shoot-around. “It worked out well since obviously it’s a lot shorter trip to Aiken than it is Tennessee for our families and fans. Aiken is a good location.”
UNCP will begin preparation today for the Railsplitters, a squad that’s earned their third straight regional berth. The Braves will practice two days in Pembroke before departing for South Carolina on Thursday. UNCP is on spring break this week.
“It’s kind of nice that we don’t have to worry about practicing around class and tests,” Miller said.
Lincoln Memorial, ranked 11th in Division II, saw its eight-game winning streak snapped by the Bulldogs in Sunday’s South Atlantic Conference championship but has four players averaging double figures and an upperclassmen heavy starting five. Wingate is also playing in UNCP’s regional, squaring off with Limestone at 7:30.
“Lincoln Memorial’s a regional power and we’re still gathering info in terms of video and stats,” Miller said. “We’ll figure out the best way to attack and work that into what we’re trying to do this week.”
Prior to last week’s win over Georgia Southwestern in the PBC Tournament quarterfinals, several Braves and Miller were recognized for their contributions this season by the league.
Seniors Shahmel Brackett and George Blakeney each received all-conference nods and Miller shared Coach of the Year honors. Redshirt freshman Quamain Rose joined Brackett and Frank Smith (1993-94) as one of only three players to be named PBC Freshman of the Year.
Sophomore Ben Jacobs earned the PBC’s Elite 15 award, an accolade given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA participating at the conference tournament. Jacobs is a physical education major with a 3.98 GPA.