I'm sure today was a great off-day for the DWU players and coaches to get rested, refocused and ready to take on No. 10 Cornerstone tomorrow in the Sweet 16. It didn't feel like much of an off-day for me, though. At least I got to sleep in.
Today the Tigers had a short shoot-around with a little bit of prep at Branson High School. It was pretty low-key, and with the possibility of playing both Friday and Saturday if all goes well, it seemed like a good idea to get in the gym and loosen up a little, but stay away from anything too taxing to conserve our energy for Cornerstone and, hopefully, beyond. One interesting thing about these type of events is some of the connections out there. Embry-Riddle from Daytona Beach, Fla., had the court before us, and one of their players was exicted when he saw Brady Wiebe take the floor for our shootaround. Apparently this kid had spent a year at Dakota State in Wiebe's hometown of Madison before transferring to Embry-Riddle. You wouldn't think players from DWU and schools in Florida would know one another, but as that scary ride at Disney taught me, it's a small world.
After that, I had the pleasure of typing our entire box score from last night into our stats program. Without getting too boring, our conference uses a program called Stat Crew for all our sports statistics. The NAIA uses a different program (and other conferences do as well) so I can't use their stat file at all...I need to make my own. Which means typing in each players' stat line and all the team stats. Exciting, right? Thanks, NAIA.
For all you stat-heads out there, you may have noticed that our stats from last night aren't good. I don't know exactly who was doing them, but Preston Broughton had to have more than three rebounds, Mark Mingo got a steal that didn't make it in, Brady Wiebe was down for a missed 3-pointer, but I don't remember him ever letting one fly from that far out. One would think that a National Tournament would take things like official statistics very seriously, and maybe our game was an anomaly, but I'm hoping it's better Friday night.
After getting our stats squared away, I wrote my official preview (link at the bottom) for tomorrow's game. I put most of my limited analysis on Cornerstone into that preview, but here are some things I didn't include ... Their big guys are very good, and they do a lot of different things for them, and the whole team plays really hard. However, I really like our guards to have big games. This seems like the type of game where Darrin Dorsey could really control things the whole way, and I think Mitch Bain could also have a big night. If our big guys can just play their post players to a draw, which is entirely possible, I think our guards can win it for us.
Having said that, we need to avoid foul trouble. Brady Wiebe and Preston Broughton need to be on the court. I wrote down the time when each guy picked up his second foul in the first half of Wednesday's game, hoping those times would end up being insignificant, which they did. However, they'll have to do a good job again Friday of staying on the floor. On the flip side, if we could get their three bigs into foul trouble, that could really swing things in our favor.
Finally, I was not impressed with the way Cornerstone handled itself down the stretch. The Golden Eagles just never seemed comfortable or poised in the win over Ozarks. They were up six with just over a minute left, and I said to a few different people that they would be lucky to win, and they were. Ozarks hit a 3, got a turnover, scored and then had the ball and a chance to win but didn't execute on the final posession. I didn't like how Cornerstone handled its posessions down the stretch. They didn't run enough clock or take very good shots, and they even passed up some WIDE open looks from the perimeter. Meanwhile, we've been extremely poised in crunch time and have played well in the final minutes of close games since New Years, so even if we're behind and the clock starts winding down...have faith.
After getting some work done, I joined our coaches at the Eastern Oregon-Davenport game. Congrats to Coach Tyhurst and Eastern Oregon on a good win after Davenport shot the lights out from the outside in the first half. Then we had dinner at our sponsor's restaraunt, Cantina Laredo, which was amazing. They've been great hosts as part of the "Honorary Coaches" program, where the tournament pairs a business or two up with each team so you can feel connected to the community. Our honorary coaches - Chris and Eric - have been great since we arrived, and seriously, if you like Mexican food and are in Branson, go there. It's down on the landing (link also coming later in this post).
At dinner I got caught up on how the players' expedition to the go-kart/mini-golf place was this afternoon. I'm happy to report that everyone surivived the go-karts without injury. And according to Mitch Bain, he was the best at mini golf, while Darrin Dorsey and Bo LaCroix were the worst.
Finally, I finished my night back at the gym. Northwesern College's SID, Matt Bos, runs the media room at the National Tournament and writes most of the content for the NAIA site about the tourney. While I'm down here, I volunteered my releases for our games to help him out and I also offered to write the NAIA story for the Hastings-Cardinal Stritch game. I went back to the gym a little early and caught the end of the Jamestown-Oklahoma Wesleyan game. Jamestown had good chances but couldn't make free throws or threes down the stretch, and this is not the same OWU team that won the title last year. It's still a very good team, but not quite as good as the 09 version.
Here's my shameless plug for this blog: I flashed some pretty quick hands catching an errant pass at the press table in the second half of the Hastings game. Cardinal Stritch's SID, David Sneig, was doing their radio broadcast right next to me and even gave me a shoutout for the catch on the air and I got thumbs-up from Tim Smith and "The Coach" Bob Sprang from their seats. However, it was quickly forgotten as minutes later a Stritch player crashed through Pete Hansen's TV monitor on the press table and into the first row of seats while trying to save a loose ball. Fortunately, the player went back in after a quick examination and the TV monitor was restored to working order.
Hastings won, making a 3-0 sweep for the GPAC in the first round. It definitely helps our conference's national rep that we've got three of the Sweet 16. However, the Broncos made it interesting by shooting just 3-for-28 from three. Their freshman center took over and had a huge game, including 14 points in the final 5 mintues as Hastings came back from 15 down in the second half. If you're scoring at home, DWU is the only GPAC team that DIDN'T need a miraculous comeback to advance. Hopefully that will have us fresher for Friday.
Alright. It's bedtime. Here are some links:
CLICK HERE for my preview of DWU and Cornerstone.
CLICK HERE for LA Sports Riot's latest pod cast, featuring DWU head coach John Hemenway, which was taped this evening while we were at dinner at Cantina Laredo. You may recognize some of the info Logan Anderson uses during the interview as things that were broken first by this blog...
CLICK HERE for College Fanz' video highlights of DWU's first round win. (if it will play for you...still loading for me).
CLICK HERE for the DWU Tiger Fan Blog...lots of great updates about the tourney.
CLICK HERE for the Daily Republic's preview of the Cornerstone game.
CLICK HERE for Leah Rado's Tiger Zone blog as she makes her way to cover the team in Branson.
And finally, Cantina Laredo's site. Delicious, and now great friends to the Tiger program.
Now I'm really going to bed. Final thought...
Best comment to an official at the tourney so far: (while holding up a cell phone) "This must be your phone because it has three missed calls!"