|HBCUs finally earning respect|
|Published Friday, March 9, 2018|
Lonnie Blow couldn’t talk at first. He was still trying to pick himself up off the floor.
Blow, like several of us, was still in shock after learning that Virginia State had earned the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Region and would host the men’s regional beginning Saturday.
The Trojans were catapulted to No. 1 in the region during CIAA Tournament week for the first time in program history. That put even more pressure on the team to perform.
The CIAA’s Achilles’ heel in the playoffs –at least for the men – has been losing in the first round. West Liberty and Fairmont State universities have been major roadblocks.
Livingstone lost to both in back-to-back seasons in 2014 and ’15, and Bowie State to Fairmont State last year. VSU won a first-round playoff game in 2016 – the first for the men in a long, long time.
It’s no secret that HBCUs and the NCAA have a cantankerous relationship. An upset loss in the CIAA tourney has kept many a team home for the postseason.
That wasn’t going to happen to the Trojans, but their top ranking looked all but gone after their upset loss to eventual champion, and hated rival, Virginia Union in the semifinal.
“We thought that after West Liberty lost in their tournament semifinal that we still had a chance to host the regional,” said Blow who finally managed to sit upright. “We played a tough nonconference schedule, one of the toughest in the country.”
Still, that usually hasn’t mattered to the NCAA selection committee in the past. But maybe the tide is turning.
One of the selection members highly praised the Trojans on the DII Selection Show last Sunday for not only their tough schedule but also their defense, which is third best in the country.
The SIAC received accolades as well. Morehouse, which also lost in its tourney semifinal, retained its No. 1 ranking in the South Region, which it held for most of the season. The Maroon Tigers’ two losses have been to one team – Claflin, which earned an automatic berth after winning the tourney. Joining them is Clark Atlanta.
Again, the analyst kept saying how good Morehouse was and how strong the conference had been all season. I almost hit the floor.
Unfortunately, the HBCUs will cancel each other out early – Virginia Union vs. Bowie State on the women’s side, Virginia State vs. Virginia Union and Clark Atlanta vs. Claflin on the men’s – but the same can be said for the predominately white Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference teams, too.
Who knows, maybe perceptions are finally changing for HBCUs.
For all the hoopla about the dwindling popularity of the CIAA Tournament, the games were as entertaining as ever.
But the women’s division was sorely missing one key element: style. The ladies could use some fashion tips from their predecessors on how to strut it at the C-I.
Aw c’mon, don’t give me that X’s and O’s crap; it’s still the tournament, and the spotlight is on.
All the media – especially my male colleagues – kept talking about was the 2014-15 semifinal game between Livingstone, coached by Anita Howard, and Lincoln (Pa), coached by Jessica Kern. And they weren’t discussing the game.
Former St. Augustine’s coach Jarita Crump would still be raising the temperature if she had won more than two games.
The men were dressed much sharper on the sideline, and ladies that just can’t be.
Hey, it is what it is.
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