Walla Walla University men qualify for NAIA Division II tournament

WWU is one of four teams that will battle for a ticket to the NAIA Division II national tournament.

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COLLEGE PLACE - The Walla Walla University men's basketball team has qualified for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II independent conference basketball championship tournament in Denver later this month.

The tourney will take place Feb. 27-28.

The team will leave on Feb. 26, and it will play an Alumni-WWU exhibition game on Thursday to raise funds for the trip.

The exhibition game will take place at 9 p.m., following a prep game in the annual Walla Walla University-hosted Friendship Tournament.

The fund-raiser will be free of charge, but donations for helping the men's team travel to Denver will be accepted.

"We received the call Monday, and we're excited to go," WWU athletic director Tim Windemuth said this morning.

The NAIA independent schools are spread around the United States, so they do not play a regular conference schedule, Windemuth said.

A committee evaluates the teams' schedules and assigns a "complicated system of power points" to each team on the basis of wins and losses, quality of opponents and so on, he said.

"The top four teams will meet in the Denver tournament," Windemuth added. "We will go in as the No. 4 seed."

The teams in the tournament will be No. 1 seed Johnson and Wales of Denver, No. 2 Ohio Dominican University, No. 3 Marygrove College of Michigan and No. 4 WWU.

As the No. 4 seed, WWU will tangle with the No. 1 seed Johnson and Wales in Denver at 7 p.m.

"We played them (at College Place) in our second game of the season, and we lost by 10," Windemuth said. "We feel like we're playing much better basketball now. So, we're ready to go and give it a shot to see how we do."

The winners of the games on the Feb. 27 play at 3 p.m. on Feb 28. The losers of the first round play at 1 p.m. the following day.

The winner of the tournament advances to a national championship tourney in March at Branson, Mo.

The winner of the tournament also wins the right to host the conference championship tournament next year.

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