FLORENCE, SC – The Francis Marion University men's basketball team will play the opening game of the 2018 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional on Saturday (March 10) when the sixth-seeded Patriots meet the 24th-ranked and third-seeded UNC Pembroke Braves.
The game will tip off at noon in the 5,009-seat B. Frank "Tex" Turner Arena on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn. Live video and live stats can be accessed through www.fmupatriots.com or through http://lmurailsplitters.com/sports/2018/3/5/2016-ncaa-division-ii-southeast-regional-tournament-central.aspx
The second game in Saturday's first session has second-seeded and fifth-ranked Queens University of Charlotte (28-3) playing seventh-seeded Lees-McRae College (23-8) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday's second session consists of top-seeded and top-ranked Lincoln Memorial University (30-1) playing eighth-seeded King University (19-10) at 5:30 p.m., and fourth-seeded and 25th-ranked Clayton State University (23-6) playing fifth-seeded Carson-Newman University (23-7) at 8 p.m.
General admission for each session is $5.
The regional semifinals will be played on Sunday at 5 and 7:30 p.m. and the regional title game is set for Tuesday (March 13) evening at 7 p.m.
Francis Marion owns a 20-9 record, the program's first 20-win season in 14 years, and the Patriots placed third during the Peach Belt Conference regular season, after being picked to finish tied for 10th in the coaches' pre-season poll.
This will be FMU's second appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Patriots registered a 27-4 mark en route to an appearance in the round of Sweet 16 in 2004. That squad was eliminated by Kennesaw State University, which went on win the Division II national title.
The Patriot program also advanced to the NAIA National Tournament in 1991.
FMU is led by PBC Player of the Year Detrek Browning and his 24.5 points per game average. The 6-0 senior guard needs only five points to pass Augusta University's Keshun Sherrill for the Peach Belt Conference career scoring record. Browning currently stands at 2,329.
The other probable Patriot starters include sophomore 5-7 guard Jaquez Smith (5.6 ppg, 2.7 apg), senior 6-5 forward Warren Specht (8.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), junior 6-3 forward Brandon Parker (14.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg), and senior 6-7 center Judah Alexander (8.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg).
The UNCP (26-5) probable starting line-up consists of freshman 6-2 guard David Strother (9.5 ppg, 3.8 apg), freshman 6-4 guard Tyrell Kirk (9.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg), senior 6-4 guard Brandon Watts (12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg), senior 6-7 forward Nigel Grant 16.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg), and sophomore 6-7 forward Akia Pruitt (12.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg).
The Patriots are second in the Peach Belt Conference in scoring offense at 81.6 points per game, while UNCP ranks fourth at 80.6 ppg. FMU is fifth in scoring defense allowing 75.4 ppg, while the Braves are first in the league, giving up only 70.8 ppg.
The Patriots and Braves will be meeting for the fourth time this season. Francis Marion never trailed during a 90-83 win in Florence on Jan. 24, and UNCP never trailed during a 66-60 victory on Feb. 21 in Pembroke. This past Saturday at the Peach Belt Tournament semifinals in Morrow, Ga., the Braves pulled away in the second half to register a 94-75 win. UNCP leads the all-time series 44-34, a series that dates back to the Patriots' inaugural season of 1970-71.
FMU head coach Gary Edwards will be guiding his second program to the Division II Tournament, having taken Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) to four trips between 2000 and 2005.
The 64-team NCAA field includes 24 automatic qualifiers (conference champions) and 40 at-large invitations. Each of the eight regional tournament champions will advance to the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., for the 2018 NCAA Division II Men's Elite Eight, March 20, 22, 24. Northwest Missouri State University enters the tournament as the reigning champions.
2018 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional schedule
Saturday, March 10
Game 1 - No. 6 Francis Marion vs. No. 3 UNC Pembroke (Noon)
Game 2 - No. 7 Lees-McRae vs. No. 2 Queens (2:30 pm)
Game 3 - No. 8 King vs. No. 1 Lincoln Memorial (5:30 pm)
Game 4 - No. 5 Carson-Newman vs. No. 4 Clayton State (8:00 pm)
Sunday, March 11
Game 5 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 (5 pm)
Game 6 - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 (7:30 pm)
Tuesday, March 13
Southeast Regional Championship - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 (7 pm)