FLORENCE, SC – Francis Marion University earned an at-large bid to the 2018 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament as the field of 64 was announced on Sunday night (March 4). This year's field includes 24 automatic qualifiers (conference champions) and 40 at-large invitations.
Eight regional tournaments, consisting of eight teams each, begin play on March 10 and play through March 13. The regional champions then head to the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., for the 2018 NCAA Division II Men's Elite Eight. Play tips off in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, March 20 and concludes with the championship game on Saturday, March 24.
Francis Marion is the sixth seed in the Southeast Regional to be played at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn. The Patriots will play third-seeded and 24th-ranked UNC Pembroke (26-5) on Saturday (March 10) at noon.
The other first-round games on Saturday will have top-seeded and top-ranked Lincoln Memorial University (30-1) playing eighth-seeded King University (19-10) at 5:30 p.m., second-seeded and fifth-ranked Queens University of Charlotte (28-3) playing seventh-seeded Lees-McRae College (23-8) at 2:30 p.m., and fourth-seeded and 25th-ranked Clayton State University (23-6) playing fifth-seeded Carson-Newman University (23-7) at 8 p.m.
The regional semifinals will be played on Sunday at 5 and 7:30 p.m. and the regional title game is set for Tuesday (March 13) evening at 7 p.m. The Railsplitters will host the regional in the 5,009-seat B. Frank "Tex" Turner Arena for the third time in the past four seasons.
The three automatic qualifiers for the Southeast Regional are LMU, which defeated Queens 77-75 in the South Atlantic Conference championship game; UNCP, which beat Clayton State 70-60 in the Peach Belt Conference title game; and Lees-McRae, which downed Belmont Abbey College 75-72 in the Conference Carolinas championship game.
Francis Marion owns a 20-9 record, the program's first 20-win season in 14 years, and the Patriots placed third during the Peach Belt Conference regular season, after being picked to finish tied for 10th in the coaches' pre-season poll.
This will be FMU's second appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Patriots registered a 27-4 mark en route to an appearance in the round of Sweet 16 in 2004. That squad was eliminated by Kennesaw State University, which went on win the Division II national title
The Patriot program also advanced to the NAIA National Tournament in 1991.
FMU head coach Gary Edwards will be guiding his second program to the Division II Tournament, having taken Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) to four trips between 2000 and 2005.
The Patriots and Braves will be meeting for the fourth time this season. Francis Marion never trailed during a 90-83 win in Florence on Jan. 24, and UNCP never trailed during a 66-60 victory on Feb. 21 in Pembroke. This past Saturday at the Peach Belt Tournament semifinals in Morrow, Ga., the Braves pulled away in the second half to register a 94-75 win. UNCP leads the all-time series 44-34, a series that dates back to the Patriots' inaugural season of 1970-71.
Northwest Missouri State University enters the tournament as the reigning champions. The Bearcats defeated Fairmont State University 71-61 to become the first program in Division II history to win the football and basketball championship in the same year. They are looking to become the first team to repeat as tournament champions since the 1993 and 1994 Cal State Bakersfield squads.
2018 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional schedule
Saturday, March 10
Game 1 - No. 6 Francis Marion vs. No. 3 UNC Pembroke (Noon)
Game 2 - No. 7 Lees-McRae vs. No. 2 Queens (2:30pm)
Game 3 - No. 8 King vs. No. 1 Lincoln Memorial (5:30pm)
Game 4 - No. 5 Carson-Newman vs. No. 4 Clayton State (8:00pm)
Sunday, March 11
Game 5 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 (5pm)
Game 6 - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 (7:30pm)
Tuesday, March 13
Southeast Regional Championship - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 (7pm)