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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Bemidji State No. 8 in first NCAA Central Region rankings

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INDIANAPOLIS -- The BSU men’s basketball team’s quest for its third-ever NCAA tournament appearance got a little more clear Wednesday afternoon.

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That’s when the NCAA released the first set of Central Region men’s basketball rankings.

And now the Beavers know exactly where they stand as they close in on the final weeks of the season.

BSU is currently No. 8 in the Central Region, which consists of teams from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference along with the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and the Great American Conference. The top eight teams in the region will advance to the NCAA regional tournament in March. Automatic bids are granted to the winners of each conference’s postseason tournaments, with the remaining five spots are awarded on an at-large basis.

Winona State and Minnesota State-Mankato are No. 1 and 2, respectively, while St. Cloud State and Southwest Minnesota State are No. 9 and 10 to put five NSIC teams in the rankings.

Missouri Southern State, Northwest Missouri State, Central Missouri and Fort Hayes State, all of the MIAA, are ranked Nos. 3-6, while Arkansas Tech is the lone GAC representative at No. 7.

Overall, Bemidji State is 18-6 overall but 15-6 against Division II competition and 15-5 in the region.

Perhaps appropriately, BSU lost to the the top two teams in the rankings but defeated the two teams below them.

Winona State beat BSU 87-86 in overtime and Minnesota State Mankato beat them 79-74 last week -- both at home. Meanwhile, BSU beat Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall in January.

They’ve also defeated St. Cloud State once, but that was way back in December.

The Beavers and the Huskies will get a rematch this Saturday in St. Cloud -- a very important game in terms of positioning in the rankings. It will be the final regular season game of the season for both teams; the NSIC tournament begins Feb. 26 with BSU set to host a game at BSU Gymnasium.The quarterfinals start March 1 in Sioux Falls.

The NCAA tournament set to start March 15 on the home floor of the No. 1 seed from the region.

The women’s rankings were also released Wednesday, with the NSIC getting four teams in the top 10. Wayne State ranks fourth, followed by Minnesota State in fifth, Northern State is seventh and Concordia-St. Paul eighth.

Emporia State of the MIAA is ranked No. 1.

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on Bemidji State but also covering area high schools. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
(218) 333-9772
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