Thursday, March 12, 2009

The calm before the storm...

Just got back from watching Eastern Oregon, which was rolling with 10 minutes left thanks to some impressive shooting in the second half. The same crew of officials that Morningside had this morning were doing this game, and they weren't any better. They actually had to go to the replay to determine who an early foul was on in the lane, when myself, Adam Tyhurst and Matt Culhane all clearly saw who it was from the other end of the court. How did our six eyes see the right number from there, but the six eyes on the court didn't?

It seems like a guarantee that there are going to be a few touch fouls on the perimeter called in the opening minutes no matter what. That could be a factor, as we'll be up on Grand View's shooters. We'll have to play them close, but keep our hands off.

Today's shoot-around was pretty good. I spent most of the time chatting with our "Honorary Coaches," Mark Sill from Hiland Dairy and Kevin Gerard from Country Mart. They're both great guys and have been really accommodating during our stay. The honorary coaches program is pretty cool, and a good way to tie teams into the region and give them someone in the area to give some support.

One interesting thing I took from today's shoot-around: during the team's layup drills, Ike Muoneke and Preston Broughton were standing under the basket to give guys a little contact or a hand in their face while they were going up. Since these tournament games are typically a little rougher inside, hopefully this tactic paid off to get our guys used to the contact down low.

Today hasn't been quite as long as I thought it would be, although maybe it's been worse for the players. However, everybody seems relaxed and adaquately prepared. We'll be going to the gym to see the game prior to ours, which is No. 1 Oklahoma Wesleyan and Fisher. The winner of our game will face that winner, so it will be a good chance to get a little scouting in, and I think it's good because it mirrors our regular season routine. If I can, I'll check back in with one more post from the gym before tip off.

**The DWU women's basketball team has signed two recruits thus far, and both are on display this weekend in the Class B State Tournament. Click here to read about Sully Butte's Elizabeth Lamb, and here to read about Summit's Brittany Hills, both courtesy of the Aberdeen American News.

**I actually found one place in Branson that carried the Big Ten Network so I could watch my Minnesota Golden Gophers beat Northwestern to advance in the Big 10 tourney and hopefully clinch a spot in the big dance. I wasn't the only Gopher fan in the Branson area today. Another guy who actually graduated from Minnesota's journalism school the same year as me was in town for business and looking to watch the game and a family from the cities also showed up to watch the game. So it's been a good day of basketball for me so far, now let's hope it continues tonight.

Some Game Day Links

Good morning from Branson. Just got back from watching most of the Morningside game. The Mustangs hung on for a 2-point win, so the GPAC is now 2-1 at the tourney. Kind of a weird, sloppy game with lots of turnovers and not a lot of flow. Also, another game with strange officiating.

The team is watching film on Grand View right now, with lunch to follow and a shoot-around at 2 p.m. I'm heading to Branson's only sports bar to catch my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, in the first round of the Big Ten tournament before meeting back up with everyone before practice.

At the tournament, each team gets to warm up during halftime of the previous game, so we saw Black Hills State and Cal-State East Bay warming up, and we came away with one impression. One of CS-EB's players looks EXACTLY like Kobe Bryant. I'm not sure what that means, but if he plays like Kobe, the Hills could be another upset victim.

Here are a few links regarding today's game to get you pumped for the Tigers' tip tonight at 9:15 p.m....

-Click here for my preview of the game.
-Click here for the Daily Republic's preview, and also click here for their Tiger Zone blog. Leah Rado has a few blog entries leading up to the game that are worth checking out.
-Click here for Grand View's men's basketball page.
-Click here for DWU's tournament page.

That should tide you over for now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I'll just mention it quickly and then move on, but USF is in the Sweet 16. We were at the Keeter Gym for the last few minutes of their upset of No. 3 Cedarville, which stands as the biggest upset of the day. USF matched up well with Cedarville, and made enough plays at the end to hold off the heavy favorites. We just got back to the hotel after the Parade of Champions and the first half of the Ozarks-Aquinas game. The winner of that one will play USF Friday, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I won't be surprised if the Cougars streak continues. March Madness indeed.

Speaking of March Madness, I wanted to share a quote I overheard from a reporter in the green room tonight: "They call the NCAA Tournament March Madness, but if basketball people really want to experience March Madness, they should spend the week at this tournament. This is truly March Madness. The other one is Money Madness." Interesting take. It certainly is a crazy scene on the Ozarks campus, but the two tournaments obviously have very different setups. Imagine if the NCAA's field of 65 was at one site with just two off-days. It's the nature of the beast.

Speaking of the green room and comparisons to the NCAA tournament, here's one I feel confident making: the NAIA DII hospitality room blows the Final Four's out of the water. I was lucky enough to get a press pass to the 2001 Final Four at the Metrodome when I was a sophomore journalism student at Minnesota, but that spread doesn't hold a candle to what they offer in Point Lookout. They have two tvs with live feeds of the games going on, couches, tables, chairs, etc., and an unbelievable spread of food and snacks. In fact, I might be getting up for Morningside's 8:30 a.m. tip just to take advantage of the breakfast there.

Click here to read the preview I wrote for tomorrow's game vs. Grand View. Here are a few thoughts of my own that I couldn't put in the preview after seeing a little of the Vikings on tape in the last game - the MCC title game vs. Iowa Wesleyan, which they lost by a point.

-Their point guard Grant Burns is a real playmaker and they have two excellent outside shooters in Aussie native Rohan Greaves and Greg Schulz. On the tape I saw both those guys not only hit threes with ease, they hit them from really deep. Burns is a terror in the open court too, and if he can get into the lane and either create and score or kick to those shooters, they seem to be at their best.

-I didn't see much from their inside game, although Iowa Wesleyan had a very good inside player which could have been a big part of it. Cory Viet averages 17 and 7, but I'd guess Brady Wiebe and Ike Muoneke and even Mike Long could have big days inside.

-Grand View only gives up 62 on defense, but its hard to tell from the tape we saw how much of that is chalked up to style of play and competition. They seemed to pressure the ball OK, but they occasionally lost shooters and cutters, so if we get our offense moving and everyone works themselves into the flow, there could be decent scoring opportunities for us in the half court.

-The officiating down here is weird, to put it nicely. They seem to let a lot of contact go uncalled under the hoop, but guys get whistled for a lot of touch fouls away from the basket. Whichever team adjusts quickest to the way the game is being called could be at a huge advantage. Hopefully that's where our Branson experience pays off.

That's all for now. I'll be back with another round of photos tomorrow at some point, along with any other thoughts leading up to the tip. Remember, there are a lot of ways you can follow the game, all the links are on our special tournament page. Also, there will be a viewing on the DWU campus in the Sherman Center, so feel free to go there to root the Tigers on with other fans.

Tomorrow's going to be a long day.

From the Media Room...

Checking in quick from the Media Room at Keeter Gymnasium. Our guys are watching No. 10 Mount Vernon Nazarene and Bellevue right now, so I just stopped in here to get a little work done. I just sent out my official preview for tomorrow's game, so I'll link to it once it goes up on our site.

We caught the second half of Evergreen State's win over Bluefield, in which 5-11 Nate Menefee went off for 48 points to lead his squad to a comeback win. He just missed the tournament single-game record, which is 53 points. It was an incredible performance. He did most of his damage going to the basket, and he almost did it in spite of his teammates. They weren't going out of their way to get him the ball, which was crazy for how well he was playing. For movie fans, he reminded me of Kyle Watson from Above the Rim.

After this, we're heading out for a dinner with our honorary coaches, and then back to Keeter tonight for the parade of champions. I'll hopefully have some photos from that. Look for another update from me this evening.

Wednesday update

Hola. Here's a quick update with some random thoughts with a few free minutes between practice and lunch. After lunch we'll be heading to Keeter Gymnasium to take in some of the afternoon games, and I'll be working on a preview of tomorrow's matchup with Grand View either on press row or in the media room, which is run by Northwestern SID Matt Bos. Nice to have a GPAC connection in a convenient spot!

-I'm shorter than most of the players, so I can't imagine how some of them are dealing with the Quality Inn's shower. I'm 6-0, and the shower head is right at my shoulder. The bathrooms in this joint definitely weren't designed with a basketball team in mind.

-Last night we had some Papa John's delivered to the hotel. Our delivery guy's name? "Dad" according to his nametag. He left us with this deep thought: "You know, a lot of people go on to do great things with their lives. Then they order pizza from me." Quite an experience.

-Ike Muoneke and Mitch Bain are vying for the team's American Idol award. Ike was singing a number from The Lion King on the bus the other day, and yesterday at Taco Bell Mitch was singing "I'm not gonna write you a love song." Then they joined together for a rendition of "Billie Jean" as we were getting on the bus. Spectacular.

Off to lunch at Wendy's. I'll check back in later with thoughts from the games we see, and some notes on Grand View. GPAC starts 0-1 after a rough second half by Briar Cliff this morning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Photos from Tuesday's Practice

There has to be a better way to do this, but here's my attempt at sharing some photos from Tuesday's practice.
Coaches Matt Culhane, John Hemenway and Clint Farrar oversee the action.

A view of practice from the track.

Coach Hemenway goes over some half-court defense

Mike Long shoots a free throw

The Blue and White teams huddle up
Brady Wiebe shoots a free throw
Mark Mingo, Preston Broughton, Kevin Ball,
Adam Tyhurst and Clint Farrar look on from the sideline

Ike Muoneke goes to the basket

Ike Muoneke, Chase Walder and Scott Nelson stretch out at the end of Tuesday's workout
Coach Hemenway introduces the Tigers to the honorary coaches

And finally....

The baddest assitant coaches in Branson.

Seems like a good note to end on for now...

First update from Branson

Hello from Branson, Missouri! I don't want to rub it in, but it's gorgeous here today ... T-shirts and shorts weather gorgeous ... so we're enjoying that while it lasts. The weather is supposed to take a turn for the worse tomorrow.

Just got back to the Quality Inn from the Tigers' 11 a.m. practice. I have a bunch of photos that I'll post later on today when I get a chance. Practice went well. The guys were shooting the ball pretty well, and some of the offensive sets looked real crisp - especially towards the end. When practice wrapped up, the team had a brief meeting with the honorary coaches (local businessmen who sponsor the teams down here) and we're about to head out for lunch.

The trip down was long (about 10 hours), but not too bad. We had a quick stop for lunch at a McDonald's somewhere in Iowa, and from there the trip actually went pretty fast. I spent a good portion of it watching The Dark Knight on my laptop. Great movie.

Once we got checked in at the hotel and settled, we had dinner at one of the best BBQ places I've ever been - Rib Crib. If you're coming down this week for the game, make sure to get there. Assistant Coach
Matt Culhane,possibly the most loyal reader of this blog, was so excited for Rib Crib he spent time Sunday night browsing their on-line menu, so he already knew what he was getting before we were even seated.

After lunch today, we'll be heading over to the Ozarks campus for both coaches and SID meetings at 3 p.m. Tonight the players will be going to the Dixie Stampede with the honorary coaches. I'll check back in later today with another update and the photos from practice.

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.