The College of Southern Idaho stayed atop the final NJCAA men’s basketball rankings of the season released Monday.
The most important news of the day, however, came a few hours later: The Golden Eagles learned their first-round opponent for this week’s Region 18 Tournament, to be contested on Idaho Central Court in Twin Falls.
Bring on Snow College, again.
“We know it’ll be a hard game,” CSI head coach Jeff Reinert told the Times-News.
It could be made tougher if the Golden Eagles (29-0) are forced to go without Hasan Abdul-Hakim, who suffered his third ankle sprain of the season in Saturday’s regular-finale against Salt Lake Community College, leaving his status for Thursday’s tourney opener in question.
A regular starter, Abdul-Hakim is averaging 11 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 51% from the field.
“We don’t know how bad it is,” said Reinert, adding that Rob Whaley (shoulder) and Ga’Khari McCourt (hamstring) are also nursing minor injuries that could limit their practice time.
He added, “But, for the most part, this time of year, that’s the way it is. You put a Band-Aid on it and go.”
While CSI is 3-0 against the Badgers, including a pair of road wins in the last month, Snow (18-11) appears to be playing its best basketball at the right time. In eight games since Jan. 28, the Badgers have lost just once to a team other than the Golden Eagles — including an upset home victory against No. 9 Salt Lake.
Undefeated and on 🔝!Southern Idaho stays put in the no.1 spot to finish out the DI Men's #NJCAABasketball regular season! 🥇https://t.co/dvLHvJyoos pic.twitter.com/KyeVF80LZL— NJCAA Basketball (@NJCAABasketball) February 27, 2023
That other loss, against Utah State Eastern University, turned out to the difference between the No. 3 and No. 4 seed at regionals. After easy home wins over Community Christian College of California on Sunday and Monday, Utah State Eastern matched Snow with a 10-8 record in the Scenic West Athletic Conference but won the tiebreaker based on head-to-head matchups.
Utah State Eastern (12-17) will play Salt Lake (26-4) in Thursday’s early regional game.
That left the Badgers to face a CSI team that logged the program’s first undefeated regular season in nearly 50 years. The Golden Eagles have five wins over top-10 teams, the most in country, and are the only team ranked in the top 15 nationally in points, field-goal percentage, and offensive and defensive rebounding.
“It’s a great group. They’re unselfish with each other and they care about each other,” Reinert said. “It’s what you dream of as a coach.”
In the final poll, CSI is followed by John A. Logan of Illinois (25-2), Odessa College of Texas (26-2), Moberly Area Community College of Missouri (27-3) and Indian Hills Community College of Iowa (27-3).
The CSI women, meanwhile, remained No. 4 in the final weekly rankings. The Golden Eagles (27-2) will host the four-team regional tournament next week, also matching up against Snow (12-15) in the first round.
South Georgia Tech (29-1) is No. 1 in the women’s poll, Eastern Florida State (28-1) No. 2 and Blinn College of Texas (27-1) No. 3.At a glance
The schedule for the men’s basketball Region 18 Tournament at CSI Gym in Twin Falls:
No. 3 Utah State Eastern University vs. No. 2 Salt Lake Community College, 5 p.m.
No. 4 Snow College vs. No. 1 CSI, 7:30 p.m.
Championship – Thursday winners, 6 p.m.
Tickets: Go online to https://www.tix.com/ticket-sales/csiathletics/5894.
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