Francis Marion men earn second straight NCAA Tournament invite

Francis Marion men earn second straight NCAA Tournament invite

FLORENCE, SC – Francis Marion University earned an at-large bid to the 2019 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament as the field of 64 was announced on Sunday night (March 10). This year's field includes 24 automatic qualifiers (conference champions) and 40 at-large invitations.  It marks the second straight year the Patriots have made the Big Dance and the third time in program history.

Eight regional tournaments, consisting of eight teams each, begin play on March 16 and play through March 19. The regional champions then head to the 11,000-seat Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., for the 2019 NCAA Division II Men's Elite Eight. Play tips off in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 27, with the semifinals on Thursday, March 28, and concluding with the championship game on Saturday, March 30.

Francis Marion is the seventh seed in the Southeast Regional to be played at Queens University of Charlotte in the Levine Center for Wellness and Recreation.  The Patriots will play second-seeded and 15th-ranked Augusta University (26-5) on Saturday (March 16) at a time to be determined. 

The other first-round games on Saturday will have top-seeded Queens (28-4) playing eighth-seeded Emmanuel (Ga.) University (25-9), third-seeded USC Aiken (26-5) playing sixth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne University (21-10), and fourth-seeded Catawba College (24-7) playing fifth-seeded UNC Pembroke (21-9).

The regional semifinals will be played on Sunday and the regional title game is set for Tuesday (March 19) evening.

The three automatic qualifiers for the Southeast Regional are Catawba, which defeated Lenoir-Rhyne 71-67 in the South Atlantic Conference championship game; Augusta, which beat USCA 93-86 in the Peach Belt Conference title game; and Emmanuel, which downed Belmont Abbey College 75-72 in the Conference Carolinas championship game.

Francis Marion owns a 21-8 record after placing third during the Peach Belt Conference regular season with a program-record 16 conference wins.  The Patriots lost in the semifinals of the PBC Tournament Saturday evening.  Five of the team's eight losses were to squads in the regional field, and FMU owns three victories over teams in the field.

This will be FMU's third appearance in the NCAA Tournament.  The Patriots were 20-10 last year and lost to UNCP on a buzzer-beater in the opening round.  FMU 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 has taken two programs to the Division II Tournament during his career, having taken Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) to four trips between 2000 and 2005.

The Patriots and Jaguars will be meeting for the third time this season.  Augusta captured an 81-76 win in Florence on Jan. 23 and a 75-70 victory on Feb. 20 in Augusta.

Northwest Missouri State University (32-0) enters the tournament as the nation's top-ranked Division II squad.  Ferris State University, last year's national champions, did not make the 2019 field.