by Kevin Buczek
WILSON, N.C.-Barton College makes its first appearance of the season in the NCAA Division II regional rankings at No. 10 in the Southeast Region in the second of three standings posted on NCAA.com Wednesday, Feb. 26.
Barton won two games last week to extend its win streak to six games including a road win against then No. 8 regionally ranked Limestone College to finally earn some respect from the Regional Advisory Committee (RAC).
The Bulldogs, who have appeared in two consecutive NCAA Tournaments and has made a total seven total trips to the big dance under the leadership of head coach Ron Lievense, has overcome a slow start to the season to move into the final regional ranking slot heading into postseason play.
Barton is the Conference Carolinas regular season co-champion for a second straight year with records of 16-10 overall and 12-4 in the league. The Bulldogs started off 4-7 but has since won 11 of 14 games – all in league play – since the New Year to secure their sixth league title under Coach Lievense.
BC lost its regular season finale at then No. 7 regionally ranked University of Mount Olive on Tuesday to slip to the second seed in the 2014 Conference Carolinas Tournament. That result did not factor in the most recent rankings released Wednesday but will in the equation in the next rankings that will be unveiled on Wednesday, March 5.
The Bulldogs will host a quarterfinals game in the league tourney on Saturday, March 1. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. in Wilson Gymnasium against the seventh seed, which will either be Belmont Abbey College or North Greenville University (will be determined late Thursday after a rescheduled game between Pfeiffer University and Erskine College is played to sort out final league standings).
The semifinals and finals to the Conference Carolinas Basketball Tournament will be played on Wednesday and Thursday, March 5-6 at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center. Admission is free but the league is accepting donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Barton and No. 8 Mount Olive are the only two Conference Carolinas institutions ranked in the current regional poll with Limestone dropping out. Defending regional champion USCA Aiken, who defeated the Bulldogs in the regional final (aka Sweet 16) last season, sits atop the regional rankings with a 21-2 overall record. The Pacers (8th) and second and third regionally ranked Lincoln Memorial University (13th) and University of Montevallo (21st) are all ranked in the current NABC Coaches' Top-25 Poll. Rounding out the Southeast Region top-10 rankings from 4-10 are GRU Augusta, Anderson University, Carson-Newman University, Georgia Southwestern University, Mount Olive, Newberry College and Barton.
Based upon current regional rankings, the Bulldogs will need a good performance in the conference tourney to make a third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Eight teams from the Southeast Region will advance to 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Conference Carolinas, Peach Belt Conference and South Atlantic Conference Tournament champions will all earn automatic bids to the regional. The next five highest regionally ranked teams after factoring regular season play along with results from the three league tourneys in the eyes of the RAC will earn the other five at-large bids that will be announced during an NCAA.com selection show Sunday, March 9 at 10:30 p.m.