By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

The madness of college basketball’s postseason begins with the CIAA’s penultimate tournament in Charlotte with Bowie State right in the middle of it.  However, when it comes to making a run at the championship it may be the women who are the last Bulldogs standing this weekend.

Coach Shadae Swan has firmly planted a thumbprint on Bowie State’s women’s program and this could be the time they break through and get to the championship game.  Swan led the Lady Bulldogs to a 21-3 overall record including a 14-3 mark in the conference and they finished 7-3 in the north division to earn second place.

The Bowie State University Women’s Basketball team is on a six-game winning streak. (Courtesy Photo)

In this case being the bridesmaid does have its advantages.  Bowie State earned a double bye in the women’s bracket and won’t have to play until Thursday versus Shaw, Winston-Salem State or Elizabeth City State.  They would have to win three games in three days to win as the number two seed from the north to win the championship.

However, any hopes of winning a title rests on figuring how to beat Virginia Union in a pressure game.  The Lady Panthers earned the top seed by winning the north division and under coach Anne-Marie Gilbert are the gold standard for women’s programs in CIAA basketball.  They clinched their fourth consecutive north division crown with a 24-2 record, but one of their losses was to BSU.  Had it not been for a last minute meltdown in January at home they would’ve swept Union. The teams appeared to be headed to a meeting in the finals if the brackets hold true to form.

Bowie State’s women are on a six game win streak but, the men are trending in the wrong direction.  Last Saturday’s loss at Elizabeth City State was their third straight and the inconsistency that has marked its season has emerged at the wrong time.

Two of three losses were to Chowan and ECSU who were below them in the standings which dropped the Bulldogs to a number three seed from the north division. However, it was clear in the regular season finale against the Trojans they hadn’t recovered from the 93-69 beat down at Virginia State and were flat down near the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Those two losses force Bowie St. to win four games in four days to win the championship.  If the Bulldogs are to make a run in the tournament, they must get tougher on the boards.  Their inconsistency from the perimeter means they can’t rely on the three point shots as the equalizer this year. However, they have been very streaky from the outside all season and could very easily shoot themselves into the semifinal or out of the tournament in their opening game.

BISON SWEEP CHARM CITY

Fortunately for Howard the home portion of their schedule ended after two heartbreaking losses to North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central.  The vultures that were circling head coach Kevin Nickelberry earned a temporary respite after the Bison beat Coppin State to spoil homecoming and a tough win at Morgan St.

Howard has six straight road wins and they don’t have to win another win at home to extend their season.   R.J. Cole led the Bison with 19 points in consecutive games against the Eagles and Bears get back to .500 in the conference entering the final week of the regular season before the MEAC Tournament begins in Norfolk, Va.

Rumors continue to swirl around Howard’s program and Nickeberry’s job in particular.  Barring a MEAC Tournament title, the school won’t renew his deal after suspending him for two games following the postgame altercation versus Norfolk St.