Wesley men get NCAA hoop bid

DOVER — When Wesley College’s men’s basketball players left the court on Saturday afternoon, there were no guarantee they’d be taking the floor again.

The Wolverines had just won the Atlantic East Conference tournament title. But, with no automatic playoff bid, their fate was in the hands of the NCAA Division III tournament committee.

On Monday, the NCAA gave Wesley its reward when it awarded the Wolverines an at-large berth in the Division III playoffs.

Wesley (19-8) will play at ODAC champion Randolph Macon (26-2) on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the tourney’s first round. The Yellow Jackets are ranked fifth nationally by D3Hoops.com while the Wolverines are unranked.

The NCAA bid comes at a time when Wesley’s future as an institution is up in the air. The school is currently working on a merger with an unnamed institution.

“We talked about getting another game for this group — not just the seniors but for all these guys,” said coach Dean Burrows. “Honestly, we just don’t know what’s going to happen after this year. Life happens — whether it’s financial stuff or family stuff or just anything.

“It’s been a fun group to be around, day-in and day-out. We’re just fighting to try to get another game.”

This will be Wesley’s fifth appearance in the Division III playoffs and first since 2014. The Wolverines are 1-4 all-time in the NCAAs but their last three tourney losses have each been by six points or less.

Randolph Macon will be making the program’s eighth NCAA playoff appearance since 2010. The Yellow Jackets reached the Division III Final Four in ‘10, the national quarterfinals in ‘15 and the Sweet 16 both last year and in ‘13.

Wesley, though, has won 13 of its 15 games this calendar year.

The Wolverines have played their last two games without Burrows, who has been hospitalized in Christiana. This is the Wolverines’ first playoff appearance in his five seasons as head coach.

Burrows was scheduled to undergo more procedures on Monday. It hasn’t been determined yet whether or not he’ll be able to coach on Friday in the playoff game in Ashland, Va.

After Wesley beat Gwynedd-Mercy, 91-88, in the AEC title game on Saturday, Burrows said “you just never know,” when asked about his team’s chances of making the NCAAs.

“I think it’d be a travesty if our kids aren’t there — especially with Brian (Cameron) and how special of a player he is,” he said at the time. “I think the nation deserves to see him and all of our guys.

“We’re crazy enough to go in there and win a game or two, I think. It’s going to be interesting to see.”

Cameron, the two-time AEC Player of the Year, is third in Division III nationally in scoring at 28.9 ppg. The senior guard is also 29 points shy of Wesley’s all-time scoring record.

“I feel like we proved ourselves all season,” said Cameron. “We beat everybody in the conference. … I’m ready for this. I’ve been waiting all four years for it.”

“We’re going to enjoy tonight and then get right back to it tomorrow,” sophomore guard Greg Bloodsworth said on Saturday. “It’s very exciting. We’ve been working for this all year. We’re ready for it.”