ST. PETERSBURG - Eckerd's men's basketball team defied expectations during the 2002-03 postseason, running through opponent after opponent. The Tritons earned a trip to the NCAA Division II tournament and made the most of it, capturing a South Region championship. In capping the best season in program history, Eckerd advanced to the Division II Elite Eight.
Not bad for a team eliminated from its conference tournament.
As the Tritons open the Sunshine State Conference tournament today at Rollins, they will be primed to avoid last season's SSC fate.
Fourth-seeded Eckerd (17-10, 8-6) opens against No.5 Barry (14-13, 7-7). The Tritons lost 63-57 to the Buccaneers in January and beat them 72-62 last month. Eckerd needs continued production from its big three - center Marcus Bryant, guard Sharrod McCree and forward Anthony Washington.
"We were trying to finish the regular season as strong as possible and be ready to play our best late in the year," Eckerd coach Tom Ryan said before the tournament.
No.6 Tampa opens against No.3 Lynn. The Spartans have lost three of their past four and are 0-2 against the Knights this season.
Sophomore guard Mark Borders and senior forward James Mereus are key players for UT (15-12, 6-8). In December the Spartans went 7-1 and Borders was named SSC player of the week.
Mereus has fouled out a team-high six times but has been dominant when on the court. He led UT, averaging 15 points and seven rebounds, and had a team-high 30 blocks.