Bellarmine won the ASUN Tournament title with a 77-72 victory over Jacksonville on Tuesday night. But because the Catholic university located in Louisville, Kentucky, is still transitioning to Division I from Division II, it will not be going to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the ASUN’s regular season champion, Jacksonville State, will represent the league in the Big Dance.
The NCAA-mandated reclassification takes four years, which means Bellarmine won’t be eligible for the NCAA Tournament until 2025. Still, winning a conference tournament title during its second season as a Division I program is an impressive accomplishment for the Knights, who are led by former Louisville assistant Scotty Davenport. Bellarmine made four Division II Final Fours under Davenport and caught attention for beginning its tenure as a D-I program last season with a road games at Duke.
Similarly, the Knights played at Purdue, Gonzaga, UCLA and West Virginia in November to begin this season. It didn’t topple any of those foes but did finish tied for third with Jacksonville in the ASUN standings behind Jacksonville State.
Jacksonville was seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1986 and drew within six on multiple occasions in the second half on Tuesday but could never climb out of an early hole in a battle of two slow-paced offenses. A 3-pointer in the final seconds closed the final margin to five.
All Jacksonville State could do is watch as its NCAA Tournament fate hung in the balance. The Gamecocks lost 54-51 in Saturday’s semifinal round to Jacksonville and would have been NIT-bound if not for Bellarmine’s victory. Just minutes after Bellarmine closed…