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Despite 21 wins, Whitworth misses out on NCAA Division III Tournament

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 25, 2019, 8:11 p.m.

Whitman’s Robert Colton (12) defends Whitworth’s Jared Christy (22) during the Blues’ win on Jan. 8, 2019, at Whitworth. The Pirates suffered three losses to Whitman during the season. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Whitman’s Robert Colton (12) defends Whitworth’s Jared Christy (22) during the Blues’ win on Jan. 8, 2019, at Whitworth. The Pirates suffered three losses to Whitman during the season. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

After earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in 11 of the previous 12 seasons, the current Whitworth men’s basketball team hoped its résumé was strong enough to get invited anyway.

It turned out the résumé wasn’t.

For the first time in 13 seasons, Whitworth won’t play in the NCAA Division III Tournament. The 64-team field was announced Monday morning.

“Based on where the regional rankings had us, we weren’t really surprised, and we braced our guys for that Saturday,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said.

The Pirates finished the year with a record of 21-6. Half those losses came to Whitman, which rallied to beat Whitworth 107-102 in the Northwest Conference Tournament championship Saturday night, clinching an automatic bid.

Whitworth had won 11 of the previous 12 conference tournaments, drawing an at-large selection in 2017.

But with an 0-3 record against Whitman and just one win against a regionally ranked opponent – Johns Hopkins (18-9), at a tournament in December – the Pirates didn’t have the résumé to earn one of the 20 at-large bids that would have extended their season.

The NCAA ranks teams across eight regions – Whitworth is in the West – and then uses those rankings to compare and select teams that do not secure automatic bids.

After removing those auto-bid teams ahead of them, Whitworth was the third-ranked team remaining in the West. The two ahead of them – Loras and St. Thomas – got in.

Whitman (26-1) will host a four-team pod this weekend, one that includes Pomona-Pitzer (25-2), Texas Lutheran (18-9) and Texas-Dallas (24-4), which defeated Whitworth during its nonconference schedule.

Whitworth also lost to NWC foes Puget Sound and Willamette, each for the first time in Logie’s eight-year tenure. Logie said those losses proved costly.

The team’s 21 victories are the Pirates’ fewest since 2007-08, the first of their 12 straight NCAA Tournament seasons.

The last time Whitworth finished with fewer than 20 victories was 2004-05, when it went 13-11. It hasn’t had a losing season since going 10-16 in 1993-94.

Whitworth will lose four seniors from the rotation, including starters Ben Bishop, Kyle Roach and Jared Christy, as well as sixth man Kevin Crosno.

“As my grandpa said after 49 years of coaching basketball, you turn the practice gear in and start doing the next thing that helps you get better,” Logie said. “So that’s what we’ll do.”

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