For the Odessa College men’s and women’s basketball teams, the season has come down to one final week.
Both the Wranglers and Lady Wranglers open play in their respective NJCAA Division I national tournaments over the next two days, facing 24-team fields vying for spots in Saturday’s championship games.
The Odessa College men (28-4) will be the No. 7 seed in Hutchinson, Kan., drawing a first-round bye before taking on the winner of Monday’s game between College of Southern Idaho and Snead State (Ala.) Community College at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hutchinson Sports Arena.
Meanwhile, the Lady Wranglers (22-10) will be the 17th seed in the women’s tournament at Lubbock’s Rip Griffin Center, tipping off the event at 10 a.m. Monday against 16th seed Harford (Md.) Community College.
The Odessa College teams took different routes to their national berths. The Lady Wranglers, who finished fourth in the WJCAC, got hot at the right time to win the NJCAA Region V Tournament, defeating New Mexico Junior College 74-53 in the championship game.
“I’m real proud of our kids, real happy for them,” Lady Wranglers coach Ara Baten said. “At times, this year has been difficult, so it was really fun for me to see them have success. That’s a neat thing for a coach.
“The kids played great at the regional tournament. If we can just kind of continue to work hard, continue to work on things, getting a little bit better in some areas, I feel real good about it.”
The Odessa College men won the WJCAC title, but had to settle for an at-large bid after losing 101-92 in the regional final to conference rival South Plains College.
“We play in a really good league,” Wranglers coach Tra Arnold said. “These teams are good teams. We play good competition night in and night out.
“That (regional) game’s behind us. I thought South Plains played really well and we played just okay. Hopefully, we flip the chains off. We’ll have a whole week of practice going into this, so we can correct some things we weren’t doing well and get better at those.”
The Wranglers, who reached the quarterfinals last year, are making their third consecutive national appearance under Arnold and have had a top-eight seed (and corresponding bye) each time.
“It just depends how you come out,” Arnold said. “There’s some negative to it, too. The other team gets to play on the floor before you play, but it’s good. If you plan on playing deep into the tournament, it’s one less game you have to play. Now, we’re looking at four games in five days instead of five games in six days.”
The Lady Wranglers also made the quarterfinals last year, losing to Shelton (Ala.) State College, which went on to finish third. This year, Shelton State (33-0) is the No. 1 seed and awaits the Odessa College-Harford winner in Tuesday’s second round.
To get there, Baten said, the Lady Wranglers must contend with a Harford team that ranks first in the nation in field goals attempted per game (78.6), second in field goals made per game (34.3) and three-point field goals per game (29.3), and third in points per game (90.7). But such challenges are nothing new.
“I think we play in one of the best regions in the country,” Baten said. “We’re used to having to elevate our game and used to having to do it day in and day out. I don’t see it being any different.
“Our approach is not going to be any different. We’ve got to do some things defensively against each opponent. We’ve got to execute some things offensively against each opponent. Environment and those kinds of things really don’t play a factor for us.”
Likewise, Arnold said, the Odessa College men won’t be making any drastic changes before Tuesday.
“At this time of year, you are what you are,” he said. “We’re not going to change a whole lot, we’re just going to try to get better at the things that we do.
“It’s who’s going to want it the most, who’s going to execute, who’s going to defend and rebound, who’s going to take care of possessions and make good basketball plays throughout the game. Our team’s a very talented team and, hopefully, we can go on a special ride.”
At Hutchinson Sports Arena, Hutchinson, Kan.
No. 16 Barton (Kan.) Community College (27-6) vs. No. 17 Tyler Junior College (26-6), 10 a.m.
No. 9 Trinity Valley Community College (27-4) vs. No. 24 Baltimore City (Md.) Community College (21-11), noon
No. 15 Western Nebraska Community College (26-7) vs. No. 18 Holmes (Miss.) Community College (24-4), 2 p.m.
No. 10 College of Southern Idaho (27-5) vs. No. 23 Snead State (Ala.) Community College (25-7), 4:30 p.m.
No. 13 South Plains College (24-8) vs. No. 20 Highland (Ill.) Community College (26-7), 6:30 p.m.
No. 12 Connors State (Okla.) College (29-3) vs. No. 21 Central Georgia Technical College (25-8), 8:30 p.m.
No. 14 Motlow State (Tenn.) Community College (22-7) vs. No. 19 Otero (Colo.) Junior College (29-4), 10 a.m.
No. 11 Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College (28-6) vs. No. 22 Cape Fear (N.C.) Community College (21-11), noon
No. 1 Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College (33-0) vs. Barton-Tyler winner, 2 p.m.
No. 8 Eastern Florida State College (27-4) vs. Trinity Valley-Baltimore City winner, 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 Northwest Florida State College (30-2) vs. Western Nebraska-Holmes winner, 6:30 p.m.
No. 7 Odessa College (28-4) vs. Southern Idaho-Snead State winner, 8:30 p.m.
No. 4 Salt Lake (Utah) Community College (30-3) vs. South Plains-Highland winner, noon
No. 5 Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College (29-4) vs. Connors State-Central Georgia Tech winner, 2 p.m.
No. 3 Vincennes (Ind.) University (32-1) vs. Motlow State-Otero winner, 5 p.m.
No. 6 Florida SouthWestern State College (29-2) vs. Hutchinson-Cape Fear winner, 8 p.m.
Indians Hills—Barton-Tyler winner vs. Eastern Florida—Trinity Valley-Baltimore City winner, noon
Northwest Florida—Western Nebraska-Holmes winner vs. Odessa—Southern Idaho-Snead State winner, 2 p.m.
Salt Lake—South Plains-Highland winner vs. Coffeyville—Connors State-Central Georgia Tech winner, 6 p.m.
Vincennes—Motlow State-Otero winner vs. Florida SouthWestern—Hutchinson-Cape Fear winner, 8 p.m.
Quarterfinal 1 winner vs. Quarterfinal 3 winner, 6 p.m.
Quarterfinal 2 winner vs. Quarterfinal 4
winner, 8 p.m.
Semifinal losers, 5 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
At Rip Griffin Center, Lubbock
No. 16 Harford (Md.) Community College (27-2) vs. No. 17 Odessa College (22-10), 10 a.m.
No. 9 Salt Lake (Utah) Community College (26-5) vs. No. 24 Advanced Software Analysis-Brooklyn (21-1), noon
No. 15 San Jacinto College-North (24-10) vs. No. 18 Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College (27-6), 2 p.m.
No. 10 Casper (Wyo.) College (31-2) vs. No. 23 South Georgia Technical College (28-5), 4 p.m.
No. 13 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (27-4) vs. No. 20 Trinity Valley Community College (27-5), 6 p.m.
No. 12 Walters State (Tenn.) Community College (28-5) vs. No. 21 North Dakota State College of Science (29-3), 8 p.m.
No. 14 Northwest Florida State (22-6) vs. No. 19 Panola College (25-6), 10 a.m.
No. 11 Tallahassee (Fla,) Community College (24-6) vs. No. 22 Western Nebraska Community College (29-4), noon
No. 1 Shelton (Ala.) State College (33-0) vs. Harford-Odessa winner, 2 p.m.
No. 8 New Mexico Junior College (30-3) vs. Salt Lake-ASA Brooklyn winner, 4 p.m.
No. 2 Gulf Coast (Fla.) State College (26-2) vs. San Jacinto-Hutchinson winner, 6 p.m.
No. 7 Seward County (Kan.) Community College (30-3) vs. Casper-South Georgia Tech winner, 8 p.m.
No. 4 Jones County (Miss.) Junior College (26-3) vs. Northeastern Oklahoma-Trinity Valley winner, 1 p.m.
No. 5 Cochise (Ariz.) College (29-2) vs. Walters State-North Dakota SCS winner, 3 p.m.
No. 3 Moberly Area (Mo.) Community College (32-0) vs. Northwest Florida-Panola winner, 5 p.m.
No. 6 Wabash Valley (Ill.) College (30-2) vs. Tallahassee-Western Nebraska winner, 7 p.m.
Shelton State—Harford-Odessa winner vs. New Mexico JC—Salt Lake-ASA Brooklyn winner, 1 p.m.
Gulf Coast—San Jacinto-Hutchinson winner vs. Seward County—Casper-South Georgia Tech winner, 3 p.m.
Jones County—Northeastern Oklahoma-Trinity Valley winner vs. Cochise—Walters State-North Dakota SCS winner, 5 p.m.
Moberly Area—Northwest Florida-Panola winner vs. Wabash Valley—Tallahassee-Western Nebraska winner, 7 p.m.
Quarterfinal 1 winner vs. Quarterfinal 3 winner, 5 p.m.
Quarterfinal 2 winner vs. Quarterfinal 4 winner, 7 p.m.
Semifinal losers, 4:30 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.