CLEVELAND — The College of Wooster men’s basketball team and the NCAA Tournament.
Over the last 31 years, the two have become synonymous as the calendar flips from February to March, and the 2018-2019 team is no exception, as the Fighting Scots were awarded an at-large bid and will make their 27th appearance in the Division III NCAA Tournament under the direction of coach Steve Moore.
Although the Fighting Scots are no strangers to the postseason, they know better than to take the opportunity for granted.
“It’s good to be playing in March,” Moore told WKYC.com in an exclusive interview.
“It’s really good. You work all season for this. It’s always a goal of ours. We’ve been very fortunate to be involved in the National Tournament in most years, but we never take it for granted. It’s a special thing.”
The Fighting Scots have made a Division III record 17 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, but they had to wait a little longer than usual to find out of the committee would award them an at-large bid.
Despite being on the home floor at Timken Gymnasium, the Fighting Scots suffered a 79-75 loss to their archrival, Wittenberg University, in the North Coast Athletic Conference Championship Game last Saturday night.
“Our numbers were such and after we read what the experts were saying, we felt pretty good that we would be getting a bid,” Moore said. “Now, getting to play at home the first weekend, that was kind of a surprise. We weren’t sure about that, but we felt confident that we would be chosen.”
Although Wooster came up short in the NCAC Tournament, it will serve as the host for the first and second rounds, and Moore sees “many positives” about playing the games at Timken Gymnasium.
“No. 1, the players don’t miss class,” Moore said. “That’s a real plus. Secondly, our seniors have a chance to play on our home court again, meaning that game last Saturday is not their last home game. It’s really good for our fans. Many of them would not have been able to travel possibly, so now, they get to see us play.
“A lot of people think you have home-court advantage. When you get to the national tournament, everybody is so good that I don’t think it’s much of an advantage, the home court as far as winning and losing, but all those other positives are certainly good.”
When the draw was announced, the Fighting Scots (23-5) were given a first-round game against Baruch (22-5), a stout defensive team that will force Wooster to work for shots every trip down the floor.
“Their defensive numbers are staggering,” Moore said. “Their opponents are only shooting 30 percent from three-point range, 38 percent overall, but they also force a lot of turnovers and get a lot of steals. That’s a deadly combination when a team does that.
“No. 1, we have to be very smart. We have to play intelligent offensive basketball. We have to make sure we don’t force shots. If we take it in there, we have to make sure we don’t force shots up over the top of their shot blockers. We have to make the extra pass. That’s as big a key as anything offensively.”