HELENA — The March Madness that everybody knows and loves doesn't start for a couple of more weeks. But the calendar turned just in time for the Frontier Conference Tournament, which can create plenty of madness on its own.
Every team in the league, on the men's side of things, will be in action during the quarterfinals Tuesday night except LC State, which rolled to the regular season title with a 15-3 record.
Two of those three losses came at the hands of second-seeded Carroll College (22-8, 13-5), which comes into the tournament with an at-large spot in the NAIA national tournament essentially locked up, especially after an impressive road win at LC State.
Carroll also notched a win over the Warriors at home earlier in the season, along with a victory over Providence last Thursday, another nationally ranked team.
The Saints enter the postseason scoring 77.9 points per game, along with a point differential of plus 9.9. Dane Warp leads the offense with an average of 18.7 points and 3.8 assists per game. He also averages 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals and is shooting 44 percent from 3-point range.
The senior will be aided by big man Jovan Sljivancanin, who averages a double-double with 17.7 points and 10.6 rebounds. He's also been named the Frontier Conference Player of the Week six times.
Like Warp, Sljivancanin shoots well from deep (38.6 percent), but Dennis Flowers III and Shamrock Campbell, who each average over one 3-point field goal per game and shoot better than 35 percent, are also threats.
But as much as shooting matters, in the postseason, defense matters even more.
"We are in the postseason now and it is win or go home for all the teams," Carroll head coach Kurt Paulson said. "The stakes are much higher and we are looking to keep improving late in the season. We need to concentrate on the defensive end and let it lead to offense."
Carroll will face off against upset-minded Rocky Mountain College Tuesday (7 p.m.), which won just one Frontier game during the regular season and enters the tournament with 16 straight losses in conference play.
One of those was a triple-overtime thriller to the Saints back on Jan. 15. Carroll also beat Rocky two other times during conference play, once by 15 in Billings and more recently at home, by an eight-point margin.
Grant Wallace (14.4 ppg) and Clayton Ladine (13.4 ppg) will lead the way for the Bears who would need a miraculous run and a tournament title to advance to nationals, so a loss in Helena at the PE Center would end their season.
"Rocky is coming in to our gym and it's hard to beat someone four games in a season so we can't take them lightly," Paulson said."The winner of this playoff gets a bid to nationals so we are trying to take it one game at a time."
Sixth-seeded Montana Western will also be in action at third-seeded Providence. Montana State University-Northern will travel to Butte to take on Montana Tech in the 4-5 matchup. All three games will tip-off at 7 p.m. local time.
If the Saints win, they would host the highest-seeded team left, which would be either Providence, Tech or Northern. That would be Friday night. The lowest-seeded team left (Rocky, Northern or Tech) would play at LC State the same night.
The championship game will be next Monday at the site of highest-seeded team left.
Carroll women earn bye after winning Frontier regular season title
By virtue of the Saints win over MSU-Northern last Friday, Carroll knew it would, at the very least, share the Frontier Conference regular-season title with Western. However, when the Bulldogs lost at home to LC State, the Saints walked away with the outright championship and the first-round bye that comes with it.
Now, Carroll (21-9, 13-5) can rest Wednesday night as it awaits its opponent for Saturday's semifinal at the PE Center in Helena.
Carroll is the highest-seeded team and will get home-court advantage throughout the tournament. The Saints will play the lowest seeded team after the first round, which is played on the campus of the higher seed.
That game, a semifinal, which will be Saturday at 7 p.m., will be against Rocky, Providence, Montana Tech or Northern. The Skylights, who are the seven seed, will travel to Dillon to face the No. 2 Bulldogs.
Third-seeded LC State will host Montana Tech, while fourth-seeded Rocky will welcome Providence. All games are set for 7 p.m. local time.
The highest-seeded team left will host the other semifinal and the top seed left will host the championship game, which will be Carroll as long as the Saints win Saturday.
All pairings are listed below
Frontier Conference Standings/Tournament Pairings
No. 1 – Lewis-Clark State (15-3, 27-3)
No. 2 – Carroll College (13-5, 22-8)
No. 3 – University of Providence (11-7, 23-7)
No. 4 – Montana Tech (10-8, 18-11)
No. 5 – MSU-Northern (9-9, 19-11)
No. 6 – Montana Western (4-14, 11-18)
No. 7 - Rocky Mountain College (1-17, 6-21)
Quarterfinals - Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2020
No. 7 Rocky Mountain at No. 2 Carroll College
No. 6 Montana Western at No. 3 University of Providence
No. 5 MSU-Northern at No. 4 Montana Tech
Semifinals - Friday, Mar. 6, 2020
Lowest remaining seed at No. 1 Lewis-Clark State
Lowest seed remaining at highest remaining seed
Championship – Monday, Mar. 9, 2020
Lowest remaining seed at highest remaining seed
No. 1 – Carroll College (13-5, 21-9)
No. 2 – Montana Western (12-6, 19-10)
No. 3 – Lewis-Clark State (11-7, 19-9)
No. 4 – Rocky Mountain (10-8, 19-10)
No. 5 – Providence (9-9, 18-12)
No. 6 - Montana Tech (4-14, 14-16)
No. 7 – MSU-Northern (4-14, 15-15)
Quarterfinals - Wednesday, March 4, 2020
No. 7 MSU-Northern at No. 2 Montana Western
No. 6 Montana Tech at No. 3 Lewis-Clark State
No. 5 Providence at No. 4 Rocky Mountain
Semifinals - Saturday, Mar. 7, 2020
Lowest remaining seed at No. 1 Carroll College
Lowest seed remaining at highest seed remaining
Championship – Monday, Mar. 10, 2020
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!