Their win over No. 3 Southern Idaho in Twin Falls last Saturday was impressive and surprising, but the Salt Lake Community College men weren't the only ones to pull off an upset last weekend.
Turns out, quite a few bubbles were burst in the junior college conference championships.
As a ranked team, the No. 4 Bruins (29-3) will be in the minority at the NJCAA tournament next week in Hutchinson, Kan. Only five of the 16 programs who'll duke it out for the national title finished the regular season in the NJCAA Top 20 rankings.
The NJCAA doesn't have any at-large bids, so only the 16 tournament winners advance to the national championship.
SLCC tips off the weeklong tourney in Game 1 next Tuesday at 9 a.m. MDT against unranked Vincennes (Ind.) University. No. 19-ranked Three Rivers (Mo.) Community College is the only other ranked team in SLCC's half of the bracket.
Top-ranked Wallace State lost for the first time all year in its conference finals, leaving No. 2 Chipola College as the highest-rated team remaining. Chipola, fifth-ranked Itawamba CC and No. 14 Walters State CC are in the lower bracket and can't face SLCC until the March 22 finals.
Of course, SLCC coach Norm Parrish might feel better about his team's situation if their first-round opponent didn't have a 28-4 record. Vincennes is also the only junior college in Indiana, so it can attract top-tier talent from the hoops-crazy state.
"It doesn't matter ... They're all really good or they wouldn't be there," Parrish said. "If you go by the ranking thing, we're in a pretty good side. But I know Vincennes is good."
Vincennes lost in the NJCAA quarterfinals last year to Southern Idaho, which is still reeling from last weekend's loss to SLCC. CSI, ranked No. 1 for part of the season, believed it had the school's best team since winning a national title in 1987. Now coach Barret Peery, an alumnus of Payson High and Southern Utah University, said Twin Falls feels like a "disaster area" despite finishing 30-2."All the best to Salt Lake. We really wish them the best," said Peery, the SWAC coach of the year. "They were a great opponent all year. We pushed each other to the max all year long."
WESTMINSTER WOMEN: The Griffins found out who they'll open against at the 32-team NAIA national tournament in Jackson, Tenn. First up: 26-6 Loyola (La.) University, next Thursday. The winner advances to take on either Point Loma Nazarene or Robert Morris on Friday. Westminster made it to the NAIA tourney for the first time last year, going 1-1. The men weren't invited this year, snapping a five-year postseason streak.
ALL-SWAC MEN: SLCC point guard DaVell Jackson has been named player of the year for the Scenic West Athletic Conference. The 6-1 sophomore, who averaged 16.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in league action, guided the fourth-ranked Bruins to a best-ever 29-3 record and a second-place regular-season finish.Other Utah players to earn accolades include: CEU's Darington Hobson, SLCC's Brian Green (Davis HS) and Snow's Rory Patterson (Logan HS), first team; SLCC's Papa Samba Guisse, second team; and CEU's Felix Casperi, SLCC's Vassy Banny and Snow's Ryan Brimley (Hillcrest HS) and Rene Farias, honorable mention.
ALL-SWAC WOMEN: Nine women from Utah colleges earned spots on the All-Scenic West Athletic Conference squads, led by first-teamers Keshia Catten (Murray HS) and Michelle Pace (Olympus HS) of SLCC and CEU's Kendra Dalebout (Cottonwood HS). Snow's Cori Nielson (Springville HS) and Lindsie Wilson (Orem HS), SLCC's BreAnne Haslam (Morgan HS) and CEU's Erin Richardson earned second-team honors, while Cami Hymas (Snow) and Krista Farr (SLCC) were honorable mentions. Utah State alum Randy Rogers of CSI was coach of the year, and former Clearfield standout Brittney Whiteman of Colorado Northwestern was also honorable mention. CSI's Maddy Plunkett was named SWAC women's MVP.
MORE HONORS: Westminster junior guard Shannon Evans (Morgan HS), who averaged 14.4 points, 5.2 assists and 2.8 steals, is in the running for the NAIA State Farm Coaches' All-America Team. Ten of the 30 finalists will be announced as All-Americans next week ... Teammate Elisa Leader made the Frontier Conference's all-tourney team ... Dixie State's men picked up several PacWest awards. Senior transfer Kasey Winters (Mesquite, Nev.), who averaged 17.9 ppg and 9.6 rpg, earned newcomer of the year recognition, while Landon Clegg (Lone Peak HS) was named the PacWest freshman of the year after scoring 6.3 ppg and hitting 47.2 percent of his shots. Ryan Sanchez (Fremont HS), who averaged 14.2 points, made the All-PacWest second team.
NEW OPPONENT: The PacWest Conference has added Academy of Art University in San Francisco to its ranks. The Urban Knights will start playing a full conference schedule in 2009-10, giving the league four mainland programs and four Hawaii-based schools.