BENNINGTON, Vt. – As has become routine over the last few years, Southern Vermont College will host a semifinal game of the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men's basketball playoff tournament after the Mountaineers garnered the top seed for the fourth-straight year in 2018.
SVC finished the season with a 12-2 mark in league action (20-5 overall) and will take to the court at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Mountaineer Athletic Center in an attempt to make its fourth consecutive trip to the Conference Championship. Southern Vermont will play the winner of fourth-seeded Lesley University (12-12, 7-6 NECC) and No. 5 Wheelock College (5-19, 4-10 NECC)—a first-round matchup at LU which is set to take place Tuesday evening at 8 p.m.
Fifth-year head coach Dan Engelstad is pleased with the Mountaineers' regular season performance—as well as cognizant that it will be no easy task in raising the trophy for the second time in the last three years.
"Getting the one seed in the Conference is always a goal for our team," he said. "I'm very proud of our group for achieving it for the fourth-straight season. We know the work isn't finished, but it's always nice to play the games in our building and in front of our crowd."
SVC earned the opportunity to play the semifinal, and the title game with a Thursday win, on its home parquet where the squad has seen tremendous success during Engelstad's tenure; Southern Vermont is 11-1 at the MAC this season and 52-10 (.839) over the last five years.
The Mountaineers enter the tournament scoring 80.6 points per game while allowing a league-low 71.4 points per contest. SVC's defense has been problematic for opponents—its 9.8 steals per game ranking 25th in NCAA Division III while Southern Vermont forces the 18th-most turnovers per contest in the country (19.2).
"To continue our season, we must commit to the defensive side of the ball and share the ball offensively," Engelstad added. "When we are engaged defensively, and execute and move the basketball with a purpose, we are a very tough team to beat."
Earning the other first-round bye with a league record of 9-5 (14-11 overall) is defending champion and second-seeded Becker College which will host the other semifinal on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Hawks will take on Tuesday's winner of sixth-seeded Elms College (4-21, 4-10 NECC) at No. 3 Mitchell College (14-11, 9-5 NECC). Becker's regular season win over SVC served as the tiebreaker which gave the Hawks the second spot in the tournament.
The two squads to advance from Thursday's semifinals will then meet up at the highest-remaining seed for the championship game on Saturday; that title tilt will tip-off at 5 p.m. if hosted by Southern Vermont.
– #LetsGoSVC –