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Queens In "Other" Final Four 

The best basketball team you don't know about

For the second time in three years, the men's basketball team from Charlotte's Queens University garnered national attention as they competed in the Elite Eight (Division-II's status equivalent to Division-I's Final Four) in Lakeland, FL. The Royals advanced farther in post-season play than any team from the area this season, making it to the Division-II's Final Four before losing to eventual national champion Northeastern State University (Oklahoma). Queens began its basketball program 14 years ago, shortly after the school became co-ed, meeting with success early on. Duke fans are probably now familiar with Queens' first head coach, Dale Layer. Layer coached at Queens until 1998 before moving on to Colorado State where he was an assistant for two years before taking over as head coach. Layer's Rams gave Duke a scare in the first round of this year's NCAA tournament.

Bart Lundy took over for Layer at Queens in the 1998-99 season and has brought about great success in his five years at the helm. Queens has made the NCAA division-II tournament three out of the last five years, twice advancing to the Elite Eight.

The obvious question is: With such an impressive record, why does this Charlotte team receive so little local attention?

The average sports fan, and most of the media, are concerned only with Division-I sports. This follows a general belief, or misconception, that there is a huge chasm between Division-I and Division-II talent. You won't convince many top colleges of that, however. In fact, four out of the starting five players on the roster at Queens were also recruited by D-I programs. The reason for choosing Queens? Apparently, it had everything to do with winning.

Queens' Chris Benson said he chose to come to Charlotte because "Queens gave me the opportunity to compete for a national championship instead of just trying to win a conference tournament."

Shane Thorson, a freshman for the Royals who played for Florida State before transferring, said, "We may not play in front of big crowds, but winning takes care of all that."

Numerous NBA scouts attended the Division-II Elite Eight, looking for potential NBA stars, which opened more than a few eyes at the tourney to how experts perceive the talent level and ability of D-II players like Queens' Carlos Andrade to compete at the next level.

Queens' basketball future continues to look good. Benson and Andrade will graduate this May, and while they've been cornerstones of the program's success over the last four years, the team expects to continue its winning ways. Assistant coach Josh Schertz says, "We have a solid group of returning players and we have already received some player commitments that we're very excited about."

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