Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team eyes top seed in NCCAA West

Fresno Pacific’s Rickey Vick goes to the hoop on a fast break against Hawaii Hilo in their game at Fresno Pacific Monday, January 14, 2013.
CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE

Even though the Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team isn’t eligible to play in the Pacific West Conference tournament and the NCAA Division II tournament, it doesn’t mean the Sunbirds can’t go to a postseseason tournament.

There is a realistic shot that the Sunbirds could go to the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament that is comprised of faith-based schools from DI, DII, DIII and NAIA.

Teams are divided into regions and must survive that field to qualify for the national tournament. The Sunbirds would be the top seed if the season ended today. The West Region playoffs will be comprised of four teams with the higher seed hosting.

Region winners would then move on to the national tournament in Winoa Lake, Ind. on March 5.

As of now, the top four West Region teams are:

1. Fresno Pacific (15-7, 10-4)

2. Arizona Christian (17-6, 7-4)

3. Cal Baptist (13-9, 7-7)

4. Azusa Pacific (9-11, 6-6)

Other teams:

5. Hope International (22-5, 7-4)

6. Point Loma (4-18, 1-13)

Fresno Pacific is the top seed based on computer rankings and strength of schedule. Arizona Christian and Hope International, however, could reach the NAIA tournament, freeing a spot up if they were to finish in the top 4. Tournament pairings will be announced March 3.

The Sunbirds’ remaining schedule is favorable with road games against Art of Academy (7-13, 5-8), Point Loma (4-18, 1-13) and Notre Dame de Namur (5-16, 4-9). Fresno Pacific closes its conference schedule at home against Cal Baptist (13-9, 7-7).

Sunbirds coach Chris Wright knows what’s ahead for his team but remains cautious. Fresno Pacific opposes Academy of Art on Saturday.

“We are focused in getting better every day and staying consistent with our defensive effort,” Sunbirds coach Chris Wright said. “Academy of Art is really dangerous. They’re 5-2 at home this year and have two guards that score.”

Academy of Art features Ameer Shamsud-din who’s averaging 16.8 ppg and Alex Carmon 14.5.