It's been an eventful day in Branson, and I'm happy to report that the Tigers appear ready and poised to open tournament play tomorrow. I'll post links to all the previews I can find for tomorrow's game when I get up in the morning (likely from the gym during USF's 8:30 a.m. game), but here's a quick idea of what to expect from McPherson.
Athletic. Quick. Up-tempo.
The Bulldogs are a guard-oriented team led by six players that all average between 7 and 13 points per game. They'll press, they'll run and they'll hit the glass extremely hard.
One thing they won't have is two All-Americans in the front court. They do have one very good, very athletic 6-6 big man in senior forward Antowine Lamb (10.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg), but DWU will counter with Brady Wiebe (18.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg) AND Preston Broughton (15.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg). My guess is Lamb matches up with Broughton because of both player's athleticism, which should leave Wiebe with a pretty favorable matchup inside. McPherson hasn't played a lot of zone, but they might have to try it against the DWU frontcourt. And typically, when you force teams to do things they're not accustomed to doing, it's almost always a good sign.
That doesn't mean DWU's guards aren't also capable of having great games. Darrin Dorsey (18.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, 5.0 rpg) and Mitch Bain (10.3 ppg) should match up pretty well with McPherson's good backcourt of Mike Reece (13. ppg) and Marlon Dominique (9.9 ppg). If the Tigers can control penetration and avoid getting killed on the offensive glass, they should have a great shot to win and advance for the first time in the DII tourney.
Today's practice at Branson East Elementary was a good one for the Tigers, and coach John Hemenway said he was pleased with the way his guys got after it and prepared. I've seen quite a few DWU practices over the last three years, and one thing I took away from today's session was the Tiger coaches do a great job of tweaking even basic fundamental drills so they help the players prepare for an opponent or a style of play. They did a lot of little things that should help against the press, and there's just a little different feeling this year. A little more confidence, a little more focus. Dakota Wesleyan is ready to go.
The other thing I took away from today's practice - with how good DWU's starters are, it's easy to forget just how talented and athletic some of the reserves are. I was particularly impressed after getting an extended look at freshmen Bo LaCroix and Matt Dykstra. Both are MUCH more athletic than I thought, and both have shown flashes of their potential this season. I think big things could be ahead for these two as their playing time increases throughout their careers.
One interesting twist at practice: since it was at Branson East Elementary, the Tigers had 2nd and 4th grade PE classes observing from the sidelines. A couple dunks really excited the young crowd, I just hope none were taking notes and giving them to Ozarks in case that's our second-round matchup.
The best off-court story today? Darrin Dorsey's desire to ride the Branson Ducks. While the team was planning how to spend the afternoon after practice and lunch, Dorsey actually started a "Ducks" chant on the bus. Some people might ignore this, but I think it's a good sign that DWU's star is embracing all Branson has to offer. Hopefully Dorsey and his teammates can keep us here awhile so he can see all the sights. Quack...quack...quack...
I'm gonna post this quick, then try to follow with some pictures from today's practice. Enjoy!