On Saturday Feb. 22, both the Transylvania men’s and women’s basketball teams solidified their seasons by clinching the HCAC regular season title. This effectively means that the Beck center will play host to both sets of conference tournaments this weekend.
The women find themselves in familiar territory having achieved the same title last year before defeating Rose-Hulman in the tournament championship, and riding that momentum all the way to a Sweet 16 appearance in the State tournament. Their (17-1) conference record and automatic first-round bye place them as the favorites to repeat. However, the one conference loss came just last Wednesday at Hanover collapsing what was a 19 game winning streak. This shows that another championship is not a foregone conclusion despite the impressive season up to this point.
All things considered, the team is undefeated at home this year and will play the winner of No. 4 seed Anderson and No. 5 Seed Bluffton in the semifinals this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. When the Pioneers last played Anderson, it ended in a 33 point blowout. The Bluffton game was a bit closer resulting in a 14 point victory for the Pioneers, but this contest took place just last Saturday meaning should they play again, the team will face an identical rematch from just a week before. Though not a proven conclusion, the odds favor a similar result. Where things get murky is a hypothetical championship Sunday between the Pioneers and Hanover. Hanover also sports a (17-1) conference record and has the momentum having been the victor in the previous contest. Yet, home court advantage tends to be a significant advantage in high pressure games and if last year is any indication, defense tends to take the primary role in deciding the contest. Should this matchup take place, look for a low-scoring physical game where Transylvania will look to Senior guards Ashton Woodard and Shelby Boyle who have anchored the team all year and played large roles last year in the team winning the tournament.
The men find themselves in somewhat new territory as this is the first time since 2012 Coach Lane has been in this position, though, they finished second just last season. Unlike the women where there are two heavyweights and three teams looking for an upset, the Pioneers at the no. 1 seed are separated by just three games from the no. 5 seed Anderson who held their own when the two teams matched up early in the year. This means this is legitimately anyone’s tournament with wins and losses for all teams similar to playing darts. However, home court advantage will again play a significant role with the teams falling so close in skill and games being so tight this season. Look for upperclassmen Gabe Schmidt and Michael Jefferson to bring stability at the guard position and watch for a variety of underclassmen to make an impact.
This truly is the most exciting time in basketball season where anything can happen. This is an exceedingly rare occurrence that Transylvania’s own Beck Center will witness the excitement of both the men and women conference tournament. If there is a theme of all the conjecture thrown in this article, it is that a home-court advantage creates an effect on the players and coaches that benefits the home team in high pressure games. To participate in the experience, the Transylvania Men Pioneers take the hardwood Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and the women are set to go Saturday at 1:00 p.m.