BY RICKY POLLITT
The season will continue.
Salisbury’s men’s basketball team will head to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year to take on the Middlebury Panthers Friday evening.
The Gulls received an at-large bid to the tournament after posting a 21-6 record and making it to the Capital Athletic Conference championship game, where they ultimately lost to Christopher Newport University in overtime.
“It’s a great feeling,” senior forward Kyle Savercool said. “Going back there, we’re more experienced, and we’re ready to make a run.”
Middlebury and SU will be joined in their region by Stockton, Keene State, New York U., Brooklyn, Lycoming and CNU. The winner will advance to the Elite 8.
If the Gulls and CNU advance to the Sweet 16, it would be the fourth time the teams have played each other this season. The Captains have defeated the Sea Gulls in all three previous meetings, two of which ended in overtime.
“We felt like the (CAC Championship) game wasn’t going to be the way we end our season,” Savercool said. “We’ll put all our efforts towards Middlebury and then hopefully keep it rolling.”
First year Sea Gulls’ head coach Andy Sachs entered the season with one of his top goals being a NCAA tournament appearance.
The last time Sachs made the tournament as a head coach was 2012 where he coached at Bethany.
“We’re going to have our hands full because (Middlebury) has a lot of size and skill,” Sachs said. “You’ve got to take it one game at a time, and everything right now will be us focusing on Middlebury.”
Behind offensive threats such as junior Gordon Jeter, senior Adrien Straughn and junior Justin Witmer, Salisbury will rely on its offense, averaging 70.9 points per game, and a defense that is ranked second in Division III.
Throughout the season, SU has been known for their quick defense and ability to shoot the long ball. The Gulls have made 10 three-pointers or more in four of their last five games.
The tournament, regardless of when it ends for Salisbury, will be the last time six seniors wear SU’s maroon and gold and fight for a chance to be champions.
“We’ve got to be crisp and fluent with our offense and our defense, and we plan to give some teams some trouble,” Savercool said.
The next four days will be dedicated to game planning, film and practice to prepare for the first round. SU will have to travel to Stockton who faces Keene State. The winners of the two games will face off on Saturday.
With the regular season in the past, SU will focus on a new goal – the biggest achievement in Division III.
“We should be competing at a national level every year, those are the standards I will hold this program to,” Sachs said. “(The team) wants to prove they have what it takes to play with anyone in this tournament.”
Look for The Flyer’s preview article on the game later in the week.