March 11, 2019 / Trailblazers seeded third, headed for seventh straight national tournament
VINCENNES, Ind. – The Vincennes University men’s basketball team will enter the NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship as the No. 3 seed.
VU is making its seventh straight trip to the national tournament March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kansas at Hutchinson Sports Arena. The Trailblazers hold the record for the longest streak of consecutive national tournament appearances in the modern era of junior college basketball.
VU, which owns a 30-2 overall record, was awarded one of eight at-large selections and the third seed on Monday afternoon.
The Trailblazers have made more national tournament appearances than any other program. This marks their 34th appearance.
VU has done more than simply make appearances in the tourney. It has advanced deep into it.
Since 2013, the Trailblazers have reached the Final Four three times including last season.
As one of the top eight seeds for the 2019 tournament, the Trailblazers received a first-round bye. They open with a second-round game on March 20 at 7 p.m. EDT against the winner of a first-round contest between No. 14 seed Moberly Area and No. 19 seed Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
“The basic bottom line was be the best team in the district, win the district regular season, secure a trip to Hutch and secure a bye, and we have done all that,” VU Hall of Fame coach Todd Franklin said.
“Now it’s just about the tournament itself. Now it’s all about getting prepared.”
In the run up to the national tournament, the Trailblazers were ranked in every Division I weekly national poll. They ascended to as high as No. 1 and were No. 2 in the final regular season rankings. VU won the District 16 regular season title and for the sixth time in seven seasons topped 30 wins.
“When you get to the round of 16, which is the round we’ll start in, all the best teams are there,” Franklin said. “There are nothing but heavyweights in the Sweet 16. You have to play four games in four days. To me it’s the toughest tournament in America when you’re talking about the challenges you face to win it.”
The Trailblazers have put a 78-76 semifinal loss at the buzzer to Kaskaskia in the District 16 postseason tournament behind them. Their attention and preparation is focused on the national tourney.
“We’ve got to get better and get back to who we are supposed to be,” Franklin said. “It’s a great achievement to be the No. 3 overall seed going into the national tournament. It says you are one of the best three teams in the country.
“We are getting ready to get our team right. We are getting ready to go out there and put up the best possible fight. We started the year trying to be where we are right now. Now we want to go out there and try to give ourselves a chance to win as many games as possible and hopefully that’s four. Hopefully we can win a national title.”
The Trailblazers will rely heavily on three players who were a part of last year’s Final Four team. Sophomores Lony Francis Jr., Keith Clemons and George Dixon are VU’s top players.
Francis, Clemons, and Dixon were recognized for their play by being named to the all-Region 24 team at the conclusion of the District 16 Tournament on Friday.
Francis averages 16.3 points and 7.2 rebounds. Clemons averages 15.2 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.1 rebounds. Dixon averages 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds.
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MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports Information Director
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VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations, www.vinu.edu/newsroom