The rise of Fairmont State University's men's basketball team to the No. 3 position in the latest NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Rankings, which were released Wednesday, virtually assures the Falcons will receive an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament which will begin play at regional sites March 16-19.
The Falcons (22-8) will find out Sunday, March 10 where they will be seeded in the eight-team Atlantic Region and who their opening-round opponent will be on Saturday, March 16.
West Liberty University (30-1) is ranked first in the latest Atlantic Regional Rankings and earned an automatic bid to the national tournament after claiming its third straight West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament championship with a win over FSU in the title game. The Hilltoppers are expected to host the Atlantic Regional once again this season.
The only other school guaranteed of spot in the Atlantic Regional Tournament is CIAA Tournament champion Bowie State (16-13), which earned the automatic bid with a 85-74 victory over Livingstone.
Since joining NCAA Division II in the mid-1990s Fairmont State University's men's basketball team has made five trips to the national tournament. The 1998 Falcons reached the “Elite Eight” where they fell 77-73 in overtime to St. Rose. FSU's last trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament was in 2010 when the Falcons lost in the opening round to eventual runner-up Indiana (Pa.) University, 71-67.
Fairmont State's men are 4-5 in NCAA Division II Tournament games.
Fairmont State University's women's basketball team secured its third trip in six seasons and their fourth trip overall to the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament when they captured the annual West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship this past weekend with a 65-54 victory over Seton Hill.
The Falcons (23-9) will take part in the Atlantic Regional which will be played March 15-18 at a site which will be announced Sunday, March 10. FSU's seeding and opponent will also be announced March 10.
Besides Fairmont State, the only other school to secure a spot in the Atlantic Regional to date is Shaw University (25-4), which earned its automatic berth in the tournament by virtue of a 72-53 victory over Fayetteville State in the CIAA Tournament championship game. Shaw is also the defending national champion.
Fairmont State's women are 1-3 in NCAA Division II Tournament games. The Falcons last trip to the national tournament was in 2010 when it lost to No. 1 Gannon University which advanced to the “Final Four” that season.
In Fairmont State's run to the WVIAC Tournament title, senior point guard Kaitlin Snyder became the school's all-time leader in points scored (2,046), games played (119) and games started (119).
She replaced Kristen Gattuso (2001-05) as Fairmont's all-time leader in points scored. Gattuso finished her stellar career with 2,041 points. Snyder also broke Ashley Vavrek's (2006-10) record of 118 for games played and Kamela Meikle's (1983-87) record of 116 for games started.
Snyder is only the 12th player in conference history to score 2,000 or more points in her career.
She also ranks second in school history in steals with 288, third in made 3-point field goals with 224 and fourth in assists with 462. Her 94 steals this season are the most for a single season in school history.
Fellow FSU senior Tiffany Nicholson, who has appeared in 117 games for the Falcons, is currently tied for seventh in school history in career steals with 219, seventh in career made 3-point field goals with 95 and 25th in career scoring with 952 points.
Nicholson has 90 steals this year which is the third-highest single season total in school history.
Sophomore center Hailey Garrett is currently 30th in career scoring in FSU history with 834 points. Her career field goal percentage of 54.5 ranks fourth in school history.
Senior guard Briana Welch, who played her first two seasons with West Virginia Wesleyan, currently has 935 points for her career.
Fairmont State senior guard Isaac Thornton is currently tied for seventh in FSU history in career scoring with Kevin Beaford (1980-84). Both players have 2,085 career points.
Thornton is also third in school history in career made 3-point field goals (144), third in steals (173), sixth in assists (327), eighth in made free throws (415) and tied for eighth with Beaford in made field goals (763).
Senior transfers Malik Stith and Isaiah Hill have also etched their names in the FSU record books for single-season performances.
Stith, a transfer from St. John's University who plays point guard for the Falcons, has 61 steals this season which ties him for the ninth-best single-season performance in that category with Andre Hairston and Marcel O'Neal.
Hill, a 6-9 center who transferred from Mountain State, has blocked 48 shots this season, which is the 10th highest single-season total in FSU history.
Six men's players and six women's players have scored 200 or more points this season for the Falcons. Included in the group for the men are Thornton (514), Stith (449), Hill (368), Brendan Cooper (356), Chase Morgan (225) and Stevie Browning (201).
On the women's side, the players who have scored 200 or more points this year include: Snyder (554), Garrett (434), Welch (284), Nicholson (279), Emily Lohr (219) and Hallie Gunnoe (202).
Garrett has posted a team-high 13 double-double performances this year for the Falcons, which is the most since Rachel Murray recorded 14 during the 2010-11 season.
Cooper leads the FSU men with five double-double outings. Thornton had six double-doubles for the Falcons last year.
A big key to the success of both Fairmont State's teams this season has been its ability to share the basketball. The women's team has 431 assists this year, which is the most since the 2005-06 squad dished out 445.
FSU's men's team, on the other hand, has 445 assists this year, which is the most recorded since 2007-08 when the Falcons handed out 453 assists.