CLEVELAND — The Cleveland State Vikings are heading into the NCAA Tournament Friday evening for the first time since 2009 and just the third time in program history, this time led by head coach Dennis Gates.
Just in case you haven’t been following them this season, here’s what you need to know about the Vikings as they prepare to take on the Houston Cougars in the first round of the tournament.
How they got here
The Vikings shared regular season championship honors, sharing the Horizon League title with Wright State as both teams finished with a 16-4 conference record, making the two teams co-champions.
For the first time since the 2010-11 season, the Vikings entered the postseason at the top of their league.
In the Horizon League Quarterfinals, the Vikings bagged a win in triple overtime, coming out on top 108-104 over Purdue Fort Wayne. Moving on to the Semifinal round, Cleveland State came back from behind to beat Milwaukee 71-65.
The Vikings clinched their trip to the big dance on March 9, taking down Oakland 80-69 in their Horizon League Championship win.
Who to watch
Senior forward Torrey Patton has been the star of the Vikings, racking up seven double-doubles this season, four straight on their way to the NCAA Tournament. Patton is averaging 14.9 points per game, eight rebounds and 2.7 assist; shooting 46.9% from the field.
Patton was named the Horizon League Championship MVP after averaging 22.3 points, 12 rebounds and 4.3 assists, shooting 51% from the field and playing almost 40 minutes each night of the tournament. He also earned an All-League First Team nod for his performance.
Junior guard Tre Gomillion has also been a top contributor on the Vikings this season, notching two double-doubles in the Horizon League Tournament and earning the Horizon League’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
Gomillion has averaged 10.5 points per game, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists while shooting 50.9% from the field.
History in the making
The Vikings have only been in the NCAA Tournament two other times—in 2009 and in 1986.
On their last trip, the No. 13 Vikings upset No. 4 Wake Forest before falling to No. 12 Arizona in the next round. In 1989, the No. 14 Vikings upset Indiana in the first round of the tournament, then beat St. Joseph’s making it into the Sweet 16 where they ultimately fell to Navy.
This year, the Vikings will look to continue their track record of upsetting in the first round as they take on No. 2 Houston at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
The game tips off at 7:15 p.m. You can catch the action on truTV.