January 20, 2014

DSC blocked from hoops tourney

The Daily Citizen

— Dalton State College’s men’s basketball team is playing like one of the best in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

It’s unfortunate that the Roadrunners will not be able to play for the chance to be the best.

Dalton State has a 19-2 record heading into tonight’s matchup in Chattanooga against Tennessee Temple. The Roadrunners returned to the basketball court — and many other athletic venues — last fall after a 35-year hiatus and have achieved extraordinary success with just nine games to play.

However, the Roadrunners, who will join the school’s other sports next school year in the Southern States Athletic Conference, do not have conference affiliation this season. Because of that, and because it is a first-year program, athletic director Derek Waugh said Monday the NAIA will not allow the Dalton State basketball team to compete in the annual 32-team national tournament, scheduled for March.

Dalton State has defeated a ranked NAIA team — Alabama’s Faulkner University, then No. 17 — and two teams that played in last season’s national tournament, Faulkner and South Carolina’s Voorhees College. Of the 15 schools expected to be in the SSAC next season, Dalton State has beaten Auburn University-Montgomery, Belhaven University, Southern Polytechnic State University and Southern Wesleyan University. Spring Hill College is another SSAC team this season — and has lost twice to Dalton State — but is transitioning from NAIA competition to NCAA Division II status and will play an NCAA Division II schedule in 2014-2015.

At the halfway point of the Roadrunners’ season — when the team was 14-1 — they had the most wins in the NAIA. They currently have the second most behind Cal State San Marcos’ 20-1 mark.

Whatever the reason is for keeping them out, the Roadrunners are not only good enough to make the field but also good enough to advance deep. In fact, Dalton State could be the best. That’s the beauty of a tournament. The possibilities are settled on the court.

Too bad we won’t get an answer to the question of how the Roadrunners stack up against the best.

We’ll have to wait until next season.