No. 9-ranked St. Thomas Men's Basketball is back in the NCAA playoffs after a rare one-year hiatus. Coach John Tauer's Tommies (22-4) received one of Division III's 20 at-large berths and will play next Friday in a first-round game in Lincoln, Neb.
The Toms will face UW-La Crosse (17-9), and that winner plays Saturday night against either Eureka (Ill.) (13-14) or defending national champion and host school Nebraska Wesleyan (26-1).
The Tommies are in the field for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons and 19th time overall (29-17 record). They have won two of the last eight NCAA championships, under Steve Fritz in 2011 and Tauer in 2016.
St. Thomas already has improved eight wins on last season (14-12) and has double-digit victories over UW-Stevens Point and UW-River Falls. The Toms have taken three losses by a combined six points and lost all those games when opponents made tie-breaking or come-from-behind shots in the final 25 seconds. The last of those came last Thursday night at home when they erased a 16-point deficit in the final 7:00 to tie but eventually lost to Augsburg on a late trey, 84-81.
La Crosse, which starts four seniors, went 2-4 in its last six games, but has a season sweep of UW-Whitewater and a split with top-five ranked UW-Oshkosh. The Eagles also had a close win over Bethel and a close loss to St. John's. They hold teams to 65 points a contest, and themselves average 69 points with just 11 turnovers a game, while shooting 76 percent from the line, 32 percent from 3-point range, and 45 percent from the floor.