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Cougars to host UMAC play-off games

The Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) men's and women's basketball tournament fields have been filled, and if the league's final weekend of the regular season is any indication of what is to come, this week's playoff games are going to be exciting.

2009 will be the first year that six teams are featured in the conference tournament. Each gender's Nos. 1 and 2 seeds received a first-round bye, while the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds will host the Nos. 6 and 5 seeds in the tournament's opening rounds. 

In Tuesday's men's games, third-seeded Northwestern College (10-4 UMAC) will host No. 6 Bethany Lutheran College (5-9) at 7:30 p.m. In the two regular season games between these teams, both have won on their home court, with the latest result being an 83-78 overtime win by the Vikings on Feb. 6.

In the other men's game, No. 5 seed Presentation College (6-8 UMAC) travels to fourth-seeded University of Minnesota, Morris (9-5 UMAC) for a 7:30 p.m. showdown. The Cougars won both games during the regular season, but only by a combined eight points.

Awaiting Tuesday's winners will be the UMAC regular season co-champions, the College of St. Scholastica and Martin Luther College. No UMAC team enters this week hotter than St. Scholastica (11-3 UMAC), who has won eight straight conference games dating back to January 24. The top-seeded Saints claimed a share of the UMAC title on Saturday after defeating Martin Luther in both teams' final regular-season game. Martin Luther (11-3 UMAC) enters the tournament as the second seed, having led the league in scoring offense throughout the regular season. Both semifinal contests will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26. Thursday's winners will face off in the tournament championship on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m.

On the women's side, UMAC champion Northland College (12-2 UMAC) and The University of Minnesota, Morris (11-3 UMAC), who both received first-round byes, will await the winner of Tuesday's opening round games. The Lumberjills from Northland, whose conference title is their first since the 2003-04 season, will host all of its games as the tournament's top seed. Minnesota, Morris earned the No. 2 seed due to tiebreaker rules over third-seeded Northwestern.

In Tuesday's opening round, Northwestern (11-3 UMAC) will host the team it played just 72 hours earlier in sixth seeded Presentation (5-9 UMAC). The Saints from Aberdeen, S.D. will make their second trip to St. Paul in less than a week, hoping to overturn Saturday's 71-40 result. Northwestern has won both contests between the two schools in 2008-09.

Tuesday's other opening round game will feature two more teams who played each other on Saturday in No. 4 Martin Luther (7-7 UMAC) and No. 5 St. Scholastica (6-8 UMAC). Martin Luther claimed both regular season matchups, earning the right to host their opponents from Duluth. Tuesday's opening round game between Northwestern and Presentation begins at 5:30 p.m., while Martin Luther and St. Scholastica will tip off at 7:30 p.m.

The full tournament schedule for both men and women's tournaments, including links to live statistics, along with audio and video broadcasts, can be found at the following website: