TROY, Ala. – Many college basketball teams in the state had high expectations entering the 2016-17 season. After landing top-ranked recruits in the 2016 class, many thought either Auburn or Alabama or both would be among the 68 teams competing in meaningful post-season play, but at the end of the day neither Avery Johnson nor Bruce Pearl will get to slip the dancing shoes on.
Instead, two other programs from the state received invitations to the big dance from the selection committee Sunday Afternoon. The first, the Troy Trojans. Troy (22-14) finished sixth in the Sun Belt Conference after all was said and done in the regular season. Luckily for the Trojans, the regular season has no effect on who wins the conference tournament at the end of the season.
After battling through the conference quarter-finals and semi-finals, the men of Troy found themselves facing the Texas State Bobcats who beat them twice in the regular season by a combined eight points. In the Sun Belt finals Troy prevailed by a score of 59-53 and won the Sub Belt Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in the process.
The only question remaining was who the Trojans’ opponent would be in the opening round. Excitement quickly met reality when brackets were released, and 15 seeded Troy learned it will play perennial powerhouse and second seeded-ACC Champion Duke (27-8) in the East Region. The Trojans should not be discouraged because of their opponent. 15 seeds have beaten 2 seeds numerous time throughout history, and upsets always happen during March madness.
The Trojans will tip-off against Duke on Friday, March 17 at 6:20 p.m. The game will be nationally televised. The winner will move on to play either South Carolina or Marquette.
The second team from the state competing in the big dance is Jacksonville State. This will mark the first time in school history the Gamecocks will play in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. JSU (20-14) finished the season by winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament and punching its ticket to the big dance.
The 15 seed Gamecocks find themselves in the same boat as Troy. A mid-major team facing off against a national power. Their opponent, the second seeded Louisville Cardinals (24-8). Tip-off between the JSU and Louisville is set for Friday, March 17 at 12:45 p.m. The winner will face either Michigan or Oklahoma State.
Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.