The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s men’s basketball team has never been the WIAC tournament champions.
The road to an automatic bid in the NCAA Division 3 tournament starts at 7 p.m. tonight, when the third-seeded Eagles host No. 6 UW-Oshkosh at Mitchell Hall.
This season may be the hardest ever to come away with the WIAC tournament crown as UW-Stevens Point (24-1) is the No. 1-ranked team in the country and UW-Whitewater (22-3) is No. 2.
The Eagles (16-9) have only been to the NCAA tournament once ever (2007). They’ve also only been to the WIAC tournament championship once since it started in 1999. That came in 2007, when they lost 83-68 to UW-Stevens Point.
But winning the WIAC tournament isn’t something out of the Eagles’ reach. They split meetings with the Warhawks this season - winning 88-83 at home Jan. 22, before losing Feb. 12, 63-45.
UW-L also gave the Pointers a challenge, but fell in both meetings, 74-61 and 91-72 – a game that was 63-58 UW-SP with 8:32 remaining.
But upsetting the Nos. 1-2 teams in the country is getting a little ahead of the game, considering the Eagles are 3-8 all time in the first round and 6-11 in the WIAC tournament. First things first, UW-L’s third meeting with UW-Oshkosh (12-13) – a team it swept this season 62-54 and 66-65.
The last meeting, which was the Eagles’ seventh win in a row over Oshkosh, UW-L was down a point when Calahan Skogman went coast-to-coast and was fouled on the winning shot with six seconds remaining. The 6-foot-4 sophomore nailed both free throws for the win.
If the Eagles win tonight, they get a rematch at No. 2-seed Whitewater at 7 p.m. Friday, while UW-Stevens Point would host either fifth-seeded UW-Stout (12-13) or No. 4 UW-Platteville (15-10).