The Casper College men’s basketball team was seeded No. 9 for the upcoming National Junior College Athletics Association Division I Championships.
The Thunderbirds (32-2) earned an automatic bid by defeating Sheridan College 87-74 Saturday night to win the Region IX championship.
Casper College, which was ranked No. 6 in the final NJCAA Top 25 poll, will face No. 24 seed Cleveland State Community College (15-15) in their opening game Monday at 11 a.m. MT in Hutchinson, Kansas. The winner of that game will play No. 8 seed Ranger College (28-3) on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. MT.
“I like where we’re at in the bracket,” Casper College head coach Dan Russell said, “but I think we were shown a little disrespect by the selection committee in giving us the No. 9 seed.
“But we’re happy to still be playing and we can only control what we can. Now we just have to go out and show people why it was a mistake to give us a 9 seed.”
Despite winning the Region IX title, Casper College was still seeded below five teams that received at-large bids — No. 3 Vincennes University, No. 4 Coffeyville Community College, No. 5 Florida Southwestern State College, No. 6 Odessa College and No. 8 Ranger.
Sheridan College (31-3) also earned an at-large bid and is seeded No. 13. The Generals face 20th-seeded Kaskaskia College on Monday at 5:30 p.m.
If the T-Birds win their first two games they could face the tournament’s top seed, Northwest Florida State College, in the quarterfinals.
This is the T-Birds’ first trip to the NJCAA Championships since the 1995-96 team finished fifth.
“Our main focus is still to compete for a championship,” Russell added. “That’s been our goal from Day One with this group. We’re just going to have to do it the hard way.”
The T-Birds found out their fate Monday morning during a live selection show on NJCAA TV.