NEWPORT NEWS—John Krikorian was hoping, but he wasn't expecting to hear that his Christopher Newport men's basketball team would host a first-round NCAA Division III tournament game.
The Captains (23-4), the USA South tournament champions, learned on Monday that they will travel to Lancaster, Pa., to face at-large selection Western Connecticut State (20-6) in a first-round game at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
"We felt that we were a worthy host this year, but there's so many things out of your control to host," said Krikorian, whose team finished its conference regular season undefeated at 12-0. "That's the competitiveness of the region."
The Captains' last loss came on Jan. 28 to Virginia Wesleyan (25-3), which earned a first-round bye and will host a second-round game in a different section of the bracket.
"Virginia Wesleyan certainly deserved that opportunity, but we felt that we're as good as anybody hosting," Krikorian said. "We'll have to take our show on the road."
Soon after the announcement on the NCAA online selection show, statistics replaced brackets on the conference room television screen at the Freeman Center where CNU coaches, players and administrators were gathered. The line that jumped out immediately belonged to Colonials senior point guard DaQuan Brooks, who ranks third in the nation with 28.5 points per game and has an eye-popping 161 assists (6.3 per game, ninth-best in the country).
Kirkorian said he watched the Colonials, who went 10-4 in the Little East Conference, play for about a half in a Dec. 28 game against a Worcester Polytechnic Institute team coached by a friend, Chris Bartley. Brooks had 40 points in his team's 101-93 victory.
Western Connecticut State shoots 38 percent from 3-point range, averages 82 points per game and gives up 75.8. The Captains, shooting 36 percent from three, average 84 points and allow 72.
"I can't tell you much about them yet," Krikorian said. "We'll have to get to work here and do some research."
CNU hoped to have some film in hand by Monday night. The Captains plan to practice Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to Pennsylvania on Thursday. Once there, the Captains, who haven't won an NCAA tournament game since the 2000-01 season, intend to stay a while.
"We play great defense," said junior guard/forward Luc Atangana, averaging 8.7 points and seven rebounds for a CNU team that outrebounds opponents by more than five boards per game. "Sometimes the ball doesn't go in the hoop, but you can always rely on defense and rebounding. We've been doing that all year, so I know we've got a chance, because of our defense and our depth."
CNU's women, 82-56 losers at Ferrum in Sunday's USA South tournament championship game, did not receive an at-large NCAA bid, ending Jon Waters' turn as interim head coach at 22-6.
"In the history of our women's program, I don't think they've ever gotten an at-large without winning the conference tournament," Waters said. "We felt like the strength of our conference as a whole, with the success that we had plus what (NCAA Sweet 16 participant) Greensboro did last year -- we were hopeful that would weigh a little bit, but obviously it didn't."
Waters took over the program after longtime coach Carolyn Hunter, who led the Captains to the Final Four last season, resigned in September. He has repeatedly said he will not return as CNU's coach next year.