March 3, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

Middlebury College captured its first New England Small College Athletic Conference title as the Panthers pounced on Amherst with a 77-68 victory and improved their school-record season win total to 24.  The Panthers will make their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament after earning the automatic bid.  Middlebury has won NESCAC championships in 16 different sports.

Ben Rudin was named NESCAC Player of the Week for the third time this season after averaging 24.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the tournament.  Rudin’s week was highlighted by a career-high 30 points in a semifinal victory over Bowdoin, and 18 points and nine rebounds in the championship game win versus Amherst, which gave the Panthers a perfect 13-0 record at home this season.
Middlebury drew a first-round bye in the NCAA Tournament, and will host the winner of St. Joseph’s (Maine) and Bridgewater State on March 6.

TOMMIES STILL ON TOP:  No. 1 St. Thomas showed no signs of slowing down as the postseason began, recording a 68-51 victory against Bethel as the Tommies became the first Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team to win four straight league tournament titles in the 25-year history of the format.

The Tommies tied a school record for victories with 27, and will look to remain flawless as they host Aurora in the first round of NCAA play on March 6.  The winner of that game will face the winner of UW-Stevens Point and Cornell (Iowa).  UWSP is the fourth-ranked team in the latest Top 25.

COMETS CRUISE:  After turning its best record in program history, the University of Texas at Dallas (24-4) has earned one of four first round byes in the upcoming NCAA Championship.

The Comets, fresh of winning the American Southwest Conference tournament last weekend, received their second NCAA berth in the 11-year history of the program after winning their first league title since 2005.  They will travel to Trinity University March 7 to face the winner of Trinity and Maryville College (Tenn.) in the second round of the NCAA playoffs.

ON THE REBOUND:  Rochester Institute of Technology fended off upstart Nazareth in overtime to claim the Empire 8 Tournament championship March 1 to earn its first bid to the NCAA Division III Championship since the 1999-2000 season.
Senior center Mark Carson propelled the Tigers to the title victory with 27 points and 13 rebounds for his 24th double-double of the season.  He shot 11-of-13 from the field and nabbed four steals in the game, garnering the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.  Carson also contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds in the Tigers’ semifinal win over Utica, and was selected Empire 8 Player of the Week for his efforts.

Carson leads the nation with 14.3 rebounds per game, and needs just 11 more rebounds to become the school’s single-season record-holder.

RIT faces Salem State College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament March 6 at Widener University.  It is the Tigers’ seventh NCAA appearance.

NOTABLE:  Elms College earned its fifth straight berth in the NCAA Championship after posting a school-record 26 wins and entering postseason play on a program-record 16-game winning streak.  The Blazers received a Pool B berth rather than an automatic bid because they are members of the New England Collegiate Conference, which is in the first of a mandatory two-year waiting period to become an automatic qualifier conference.  Elms won the league’s inaugural regular season and tournament titles, and will face SUNYIT in first round action on March 6 … Richard Stockton extended its winning streak to 13 games as it defeated Rutgers-Newark, 62-54, to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference title for the second straight year.