11th-ranked Lopes to commence 4-team tourney Saturday at 1 pm at Antelope Gym
By: K.J. Wylie/GCU Staff
After finishing on the edge of the top 10 in the rankings, the No. 11 Grand Canyon University Club Basketball Purple team will host the National Club Basketball Association (NCBBA) Southern Pacific (SoPac) Regional Championships this weekend. The Lopes-who won the SoPac East Conference title for the first time ever-will host the four-team tournament that will also feature the conference champions from the SoPac West (No. 15 UCLA) and SoPac North (unranked California Polytechnic University), as well as 13th-ranked Arizona State University, who enters the tournament as the ‘at-large’ bid after finishing just behind the Lopes in the SoPac East standings. The four-team field will whittle itself down to two with three games on Saturday, March 24, and the surviving two squads will determine who goes to the nationals in the championship game at 10 am on Sunday morning, March 25. All games will be played at Antelope Gym on the GCU campus.
The Lopes had to play the waiting game to find out if they would actually host the tournament, since it’s awarded to the conference champion in the field with the highest national ranking. The Lopes finished their regular season weeks earlier than everyone else (February 11 at Northern Arizona University), which meant they were helpless to do anything about their standing until everyone finished their seasons in the last couple of weeks, and until the final rankings were released last Thursday.
For a program to have made such major improvements when being compared to last season, Lopes’ Head Coach Jeremy Basham beamed about being the host of this year’s tournament.
“The school is really behind club basketball this year,” said Basham. “We’re plenty more organized, which allows us to get in and get things done. Hosting this tournament is a very big deal for us.”
Aside from program milestones being hit, Basham also feels that homecourt advantage is going to help in a plethora of ways.
“All of the guys are used to these courts and rims,” Basham said. “That, plus being able to stay home and sleep in our own beds will avoid any grind that comes with traveling.”
During the regular season, GCU got the best of ASU in a three-game series earlier this year by winning a pair of games, but hasn’t seen either UCLA or Cal Poly. Because the two Arizona teams come from the same conference, they can’t meet in the semifinal round, so a rematch in the championship game is possible. For that to happen, the Lopes will have to get past Cal Poly in the opening game of the tournament at 1 pm, and the Sun Devils will have to knock off UCLA in the 3:30 pm matchup.
Despite seeing the Mustangs for the first time Saturday, Basham insisted nothing about his game plan would change.
“The bench is going to be huge for us,” said Basham. “We’re fortunate enough to have a deep bench, and no one cares who starts. It’s about how we finish. Everyone has their role play, and we rely on every guy from first to last.”
The full schedule of games for the NCBBA SoPac Regional Championships is below, and admission to the tournament is FREE.
NCBBA Southern Pacific Regional Championship Tournament Schedule
Saturday, March 24
|1 pm||Grand Canyon vs. Cal Poly|
|3:30 pm||UCLA vs. Arizona State|
|Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser|
Sunday, March 25
|10 am||Championship Game:|
|Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner|
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