When the NCAA Division III men's basketball National Tournament field was announced on Monday afternoon, there was a familiar name on the bracket line, The College of Wooster Fighting Scots.
For the Fighting Scots, it is the 22nd time in the last 27 years that they have made the postseason tournament under the direction of coach Steve Moore, who led Wooster to a 25-3 record and a No. 8 ranking after winning the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament for the sixth time in the last eight years.
"It's really great to be playing in March," Moore said. "We've been able to do so most years, but it never gets old and we never take it for granted because we have a tough conference and it's always a good achievement to be able to win the conference."
This weekend, Wooster will host first- and second-round games at Timken Gymnasium, where the Fighting Scots went 15-1 this year, and have gone 208-24 since the 1998-99 season. An average of 1,717 fans watched the Scots in each of those 16 games, and a combined total of 5,927 fans saw their home victories over Wittenberg this year.
In the first round, they will host St. Vincent out of the Presidents' Athletic Conference, who went 22-6 overall and won the conference tournament with a 90-84 win at Thomas More College. In 28 games, St. Vincent has averaged 83.0 points, shot at a 47.7 percent pace from the field, and made 217 three-pointers.
"We know that we've got a huge challenge in St. Vincent, a very talented team," Moore said. "Even though they didn't win the regular season conference title this year, they've really been the premiere team in that league for a couple years now. They won it last year, were favored to win it this year.
"They didn't win the regular season because they had a couple guys injured, but they bounced back and won the conference tournament. They're a very talented team, are senior-oriented with two top players (Isaac Turner and Dillon Stith) who are really talented athletes. They averaged 83 points a game, so we're going to have to find a way to slow them down."
The Fighting Scots enter the NCAA Tournament winners of their last 10 games.
Led by junior Xavier Brown (14.8 points per game) and senior Doug Thorpe (14.5), Wooster rattled off win streaks of eight and seven games before back-to-back losses at DePauw and against Ohio Wesleyan at the end of January. However, since that point, the Fighting Scots won their last seven regular-season games.
Then, in the NCAC Tournament, they defeated Oberlin, 89-56, Ohio Wesleyan, 78-67, and Wittenberg, 71-63, in a five-day stretch.
"Our players did a great job, even though we had won the regular season, of maintaining that desire and they really wanted to win the conference tournament," Moore said. "Our guys really did play with great determination and they weren't satisfied.
"We've really jelled. Our team chemistry is very good, and the other factor is player improvement. We've had several guys really improve as the season has gone along. The desire and determination grew as the season went along."