Here we go!
Though separated by around 475 miles, the mission is the same for the Lady Cards and Cardinals. It's NJCAA tournament time and there are titles to be won.
The Lady Cards (27-5), who received an at-large berth, are in Lubbock, where they are making their 11th straight appearance on the big stage at the national tournament and 23rd overall. They are the 20th seed and are scheduled to play 13th-seeded Northeastern Oklahoma A&M tonight at 6 at the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University.
Up in Hutchinson, Kansas, the Cardinals, who also received an at-large berth, are at the national tournament for a seventh time overall and fourth time in five years. Seeded No. 9, they play Baltimore City, the No. 24 seed, at noon today in the historic Hutchinson Sports Arena.
The Lady Cards and Cardinals are making their seventh joint appearances in the national tournament (1982, 1995, 1999, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018).
TVCC is one of six schools represented at both tournaments, joining Hutchinson, Northwest Florida State, Salt Lake, Western Nebraska and Odessa.
Against NEO (27-4), the Lady Cards will face a team that is red hot, having won 18 straight games. The Lady Cards were a 67-53 winner against NEO in the second round of the national tournament a year ago, which saw the Lady Cards advance to the title game for a sixth time in seven years.
The TVCC-NEO winner advances to face No. 4-seeded Jones County in the second round at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The Lady Cards, who have won eight national championships, are 66-19 in 85 national tournament games.
The Lady Cards are one of 17 teams returning to the tournament from a year ago. The others are defending champion Gulf Coast, Cochise, NEO, North Dakota State, Odessa, Hutchinson, Walters State, Western Nebraska, South Georgia Tech, Salt Lake, Shelton State, Jones County, Wabash Valley, Harford, Seward County, Tallahassee and San Jacinto.
The Lady Cards arrived Saturday in Lubbock. Sunday, they held a workout at Texas Tech.
Against Baltimore City (21-11), the Cardinals (27-4) will face a team that was a surprise winner of its region. Baltimore City has won four straight.
The Cardinals will be playing in their 20th national tournament game. They are 12-7 in Hutch.
The TVCC-Baltimore City winner moves on to face eighth-seeded Eastern Florida State in the second round at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Twelve teams are back in the men's tournament from 2017. They are: Connors State, Highland, Northwest Florida State, defending champion Hutchinson, Odessa, South Plains, Vincennes, Eastern Florida State, Southern Idaho, Motlow State, Coffeyville and Indian Hills.
The Cardinals arrived Saturday in Hutch. Sunday, they drove over to Wichita for a workout at Wichita State University.
All Cardinal and Lady Cardinal tournament games will be available for viewing online at www.njcaatv.com. In fact, all tournament games will be webcast. Note: A subscription fee is required.
Gas prices are on the average a quarter higher than this time last year. The lowest price for unregular spotted on the trip to Lubbock was $2.12 and the highest $2.49. The average price was $2.32, which is the highest since 2014.
Here are the average prices the last 13 trips to the national tournament:
2004 -- $1.67
2006 -- $2.42
2008 -- $3.11
2009 -- $1.79
2010 -- $2.67
2011 -- $3.39
2012 -- $3.65
2013 -- $3.46
2014 -- $3.35
2015 -- $2.25
2016 -- $1.77
2017 -- $2.07
2018 -- $2.32
It's 47 and windy in Lubbock this morning. There is a wind advisory with winds expected to gust as high as 50 mph. Today's high is expected to reach 64 with partly cloudy conditions. The temperature is expected to soar into the upper 80s and 90s later in the week.
In Hutch, the Cardinals are awakening to rain and the temperature in the mid-40s. Heavy rain and gusty north winds are possible. Looks like a cold, raw day ahead. The rain moves out and temperatures begin to moderate the rest of the week.
OK, Cardinal fans back home, you know the drill. Wear your red and send positive vibes in the direction of Lubbock and Hutch!
-- BENNY ROGERS