Friday, March 6, 2009

Gearing up for Branson

Well, the wait is over and all the details are official. The Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team is headed back to Branson, Mo., for the NAIA DII Men's Basketball National Tournament, and this time we even managed to get a seed (even if it is the last one).

The 16th-seeded Tigers open tournament play Thursday in the final game of the two-day first round. DWU will tip off against Grand View College from Iowa at 9:15 p.m. I'd guess that No. 16 might be better than 14 or 15 though, because if we would've been put in one of those spots, we couldn't have played GPAC rival Briar Cliff, who plays No. 15 Indiana Southeast. So if we were in either one of those places, we likely would have played against the host school, College of the Ozarks, which is a first-round draw no one wants. Instead, Ozarks will play the team that knocked us out a year ago, No. 14 Aquinas. We'll take our chances with a neutral-court game against Grand View rather than a road game in a hostile environment against Ozarks.

I'll do an in-depth preview of the first-round matchup likely on Tuesday, but here are some quick facts. Grand View is 24-8 and the eighth at-large team selected to the field. DWU and GVC actually have several common opponents, Dordt, Briar Cliff, Midland Lutheran College, and more, so these teams should be able to learn a little about one another before Thursday. It might not be the guessing game that some of these tournament matchups can be.

The team (and me) leaves Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday there are coach and SID meetings at College of the Ozarks, and Tuesday night the teams all attend the Dixie Stampede with the first round tipping off Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

For all your tournament needs, we've created a special page with info and links about the Tigers trip to the National Tournament. Click here to view the page. Feel free to send me suggestions of other things that should be added, and use the "comment" feature on this post to start talking about your hopes and expectations for Branson. I'll be blogging frequently during the trip, so feel free to ask questions and check back often for updates on everything.

Now, let's take a quick look at some of the other Tiger sports in action this week...

Jordan Harer had a great start to the NAIA Wrestling National Championships yesterday with a pair of wins to reach the 141-pound quarterfinals. This morning, Harer was slated to wrestle the No. 1 seed in his part of the bracket, but I wouldn't be surprised if he kept winning and moved on. All the other DWU wrestlers went 0-1 on the first day, and will begin wrestlebacks this morning. Click here to read the release from Day One.

I just received word from Florida that DWU baseball won its first game today against St. Xavier University, which puts the Tigers at 14-2 overall and extends the winning streak to nine games, including all seven in Florida. DWU will wrap up its "regular" spring break schedule this afternoon against Notre Dame College, and tomorrow it will play in the Spring Break Championship, likely as the No. 1 seed. Click here to read about the first six wins in Florida. And for curious fans, the Tigers moved up to fifth in the last conference ratings, and the next NAIA poll comes out on Tuesday, March 17. It will be interesting to see if we can stay hot, and whether or not that will get us into the rankings.

Softball also opened its season in Florida, and coach Marie McCarthy has been happy with how her young team has played in its 2-2 start. DWU's roster is just three sophomore and 10 freshmen this season with no seniors or juniors, so calling it a young team would be a colossal understatement. But the Tigers have been solid thus far against some good competition and appear to have some solid players to build the program around. Click here for the first day recap, and here for the second day.

And finally, the Tiger track athletes will compete at the National Indoor Meet today, all around 3 p.m. Natalie Wipf runs the 400 at 2:55 and Frank Thompson and Alex Liberty will compete in the high jump at 3 p.m. Stay tuned for updates.

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