SALEM, Va. — When the Augustana men’s basketball team talks about its Road to the Final Four, it’s a bit of an understatement.
The Vikings are the only team that will take the court today in the NCAA Division III Final Four having played all of its postseason games on the road.
In fact, Augustana hasn’t played a home game since Feb. 8, covering 4,027 miles in the weeks since to compete.
“We miss playing in front of our fans at Carver, but we’ve played good basketball on the road this year. It has us ready,’’ guard Dylan Sortillo said.
The nuances of the schedule in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin put the Vikings on the road for their final three regular-season games, starting a string of road and neutral-site games which will reach 10 when Augustana faces Williams in today’s 6:30 p.m. national semifinal at the Salem Civic Center.
Williams hosted NCAA games in the first two rounds, as did a Whitman team which faces a Babson team which has played its last eight games at home.
Vikings coach Grey Giovanine said this Augustana team has embraced the challenges it has taken on away from home.
“With young teams, that doesn’t always happen, but these guys just go play,’’ Giovanine said. “If there has been a surprise with this group, that’s probably it, the way they’ve handled things away from home. They’re competitors.’’
The Vikings are hoping that the string of road tests will now become an advantage.
“We’ve been on the road the last four weekends. The routine has been the same and I do think that helps us,’’ guard Nolan Ebel said. “I think it’s brought us together and especially the first weekend (in the NCAA tourney), going to Whitewater and beating St. Thomas and then Whitewater, that was big for us.’’
From arriving at a tournament site the day before a game and practicing, as Augustana did Thursday afternoon at the Salem Civic Center, to staying in hotels and just being on the road, it’s different.
“There’s nothing better than playing at home, unless it’s going into somebody else’s gym and winning,’’ forward Jacob Johnston said. “We’ve played with a lot of energy on the road this year and that needs to continue this week. We’ve got the routine down. We just have to play our game.’’