The 2018-19 Mercyhurst Lakers Men’s Basketball Team. | Image via hurstathletics.com
Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:
In my mind, this is a story that hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves. The Mercyhurst University Lakers Men’s Basketball team advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II tournament, climbing to a height that program has not seen.
Let’s begin by setting the stage for anyone unfamiliar with the Division II format, because it looks a little different than the bracket you’re probably used to ruining. There are still 64 teams to begin, but these are broken out into eight regions of eight teams each instead of four regions of 16. Why should you care?
For one thing, it means the Lakers have already won the Atlantic Region, which is an accomplishment worthy of a banner memorialized in the rafters. To get there, they had to chop down the region’s #1 seed (and PSAC nemesis) IUP Crimson Hawks on their home court and the nation’s top offense in West Liberty.
It also means this tournament began with eight #1 seeds. Six of them are still standing. In fact, the Lakers will almost certainly need to defeat a #1 seed from three more regions to notch a national championship.
The remaining eight teams will battle it out in Evansville, IN, for the title beginning next Wednesday, March 27, when Mercyhurst takes on Northwest Missouri St. – the overall top seeded team in the tournament.
They plan to do it with defense. The Lakers D is stifling – ranked 2nd in the country and the best of any remaining team, so this 4 seed can’t be counted out. In fact, of the eight teams with a chance to cut down the nets in Evansville, the Lakers are one of only two teams with a top 50 defense.
So give your hometown Lakers some love as they try to etch their names in the history books by bringing a national championship home to Idiotville. These guys have put in a ton of work all year and have been under the radar long enough. Their regional title and championship quest is definitely something good in Erie, PA.