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Trailblazers ready for national tournament

March 19, 2019 / Trailblazers ready for national tournament
2018-19 Vincennes University Men’s Basketball Photos

VINCENNES, Ind. - The Vincennes University men’s basketball team labored through a strenuous week of intensive training to sharpen its competitive edge heading into the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kansas.

“Some years you go into the tournament and you’re just trying to maintain and make sure everybody is healthy,” VU Men’s Basketball Coach Todd Franklin said. “That’s not what we’re doing. I thought the last couple of weeks we lost a little edge. We’re trying to get the edge back. We’re going all in. We’re just trying to get our core toughness together.”

For the seventh straight season, the Trailblazers will be at “Hutch” competing for a national championship. Since 2013 VU has reached the Final Four three times, including last season.

The Trailblazers own a 30-2 record and are seeded third in the 24-team field. As one of the top eight seeds, they received a first-round bye. VU opens with a second-round game on March 20, 7 p.m. EDT, against the winner of a first-round contest between No. 14 seed Moberly Area (27-6) and No. 19 seed Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (27-6). Moberly is led by Division I leading scorer Alonzo Verge who is averaging 31.0 points per game.

Winning the second round will send the Trailblazers on to the quarterfinals.

“We are on the exact same route this year as last year,” Franklin said. “We were the three seed last year and we are the three seed again. You play at exact same time with night games on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. These [sophomores] have lived it and done it on the exact same route that they did last year.”

Sophomores Lony Francis Jr., Keith Clemons, and George Dixon played at Hutch in 2018 and are key contributors this season. Francis averages 16.3 points and 7.2 rebounds. Clemons is averaging 15.2 points, 4.3 assists and 2.1 rebounds. Dixon averages 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. Each was named to the All-Region 24 team.

“We’re trying to make a way for us to succeed in every way that we can and we’re trying not to leave anything behind,” Francis said.

“I’m confident in our team and I believe we are ready. We have practiced hard and worked hard. We are thankful for the opportunity that we have in front of us. There’s a lot of excitement. We grind every day just for Hutch.”

VU is a program used to making deep national tournament runs.

It also holds the modern era for the longest consecutive streak of national tournament appearances with seven in a row. Moberly Area made eight straight appearances from 1951-58.

The Trailblazers hold the record for most national tournament appearances. This week marks their 34th national tourney.

There’s more news in the making.

Franklin is closing in on a major milestone. The Hall of Fame coach is on the verge of 600 wins. He has compiled a 598-138 record over 22 seasons, including a stint at Southeastern Illinois.

Franklin has spent nine of those seasons coaching the Trailblazers. They’ve posted 30-plus wins in six of the last seven seasons. Franklin’s career record at VU is 268-41.

This season the Trailblazers cruised through the regular season. Before earning an at-large bid to the national tournament they were ranked in every Division I weekly national poll. They ascended to No. 1 in the national rankings and occupied the No. 2 spot in the final regular season poll. They also won the District 16 regular season title.

VU exited the District 16 postseason tournament earlier than expected on March 6, falling 78-76 to Kaskaskia in the semifinals on a buzzer beater.

“We are much better than how we performed against Kaskaskia,” Francis said. “We have to be better than what we were. [Franklin] is trying to put us in the best position we can be by putting us in training two times a day and long practices just so we can be right, ready, and sharp.”

It’s about finding that edge and getting it done.

“I think if our team can find its core toughness here, I think we have a chance,” Franklin said. “Looking at the bracket, we can be competitive. We start out playing in the round of 16. Every game is a heavyweight fight and they don’t get any easier each round. You’ve got to be good at what you do and have the ability to adapt to what people throw at you. We try to prepare that way all year. If we are playing right, we can be in a very competitive situation.

“We’ll be a whole lot happier if at 3 o’clock central time on Saturday afternoon we’re on national television and they have film of us cutting down nets, putting hats on, and having a good time.

“We’re going to make sure we give our best effort.”

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Follow the Trailblazers in the NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship:
Listen to live radio broadcasts on Blazer WVUB 91.1 FM.

Or

All tournament games except the championship will stream live on NJCAA TV (www.njcaatv.com), a subscription-based streaming service that offers several subscription plans.
Single Broadcast Pass, $4.99.
Championship Season Pass, $14.99, and provides access to all championship broadcasts from Fall, Winter, or Spring.
2018-19 Year Pass, $39.99.

The championship game will air on CBS Sports Network.

The 2019 NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship is March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kansas. The third-seeded Trailblazers open with a second-round game on March 20 at 7 p.m. EDT. They will play either No. 14 seed Moberly Area or No. 19 seed Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
 

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Vincennes University Newsroom
Vincennes University Trailblazer Athletics

MARCIA MARTINEZ, Sports Information Director & University Life Reporter
812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell, VUNews@vinu.edu, mmartinez@vinu.edu
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations, www.vinu.edu/newsroom
 

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