Sunday, March 15, 2009

Vikings matched up with Xavier in first round: Portland State earns a No. 13 seed and will face the Musketeers in Boise on Friday

The Vikings learned what a difference one year makes on Sunday afternoon when the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee slotted the repeat Big Sky Champions as a surprising 13 seed and rewarded head coach Ken Bone’s squad with a first round game in Boise, Idaho.

Last season, the Vikings rolled through the Big Sky Conference and tournament but lacked a signature non-conference win and were seeded No. 16 leading to a difficult first round matchup with eventual national champion Kansas.

But this year, a December victory against Gonzaga coupled with a Portland State victory for the second consecutive year at the Big Sky Tournament earned the Vikings a much-improved and more winnable game against Xavier of the Atlantic-10 Conference.

The Musketeers seemed like a lock for a better seed until they were upset by Temple in the A-10 Semifinals on Friday. They boast a 25-7 record and were 12-4 in conference play.

Included in those seven defeats were losses at Duke, Duquesne, Dayton, Charlotte, Temple and Richmond. The Musketeers lost only one home game all season, on Dec. 23 (the same day the Vikings defeated Gonzaga) to Butler. Three of their seven losses came to NCAA Tournament teams but Xavier has posted impressive wins over Missouri, Virginia Tech, Memphis, Auburn, Cincinnati and Virginia.

Xavier is led in scoring by 6-6 senior forward B.J. Raymond who averages 14.1 points per game and shoots 42 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Junior forward Derrick Brown provides the interior presence for the Musketeers averaging 13.8 points and 6 rebounds per game.

The matchup will be the first in the history of the two schools and the Vikings have never faced an opponent from the Atlantic 10. Game time for the first round contest has yet to be announced.

Portland State and Xavier will join Florida State, Wisconsin, Marquette, Utah State, Missouri and Cornell in first round games at Taco Bell Arena on the campus of Boise State University.