Thursday, March 4, 2010

Putting all the pieces together...

Another busy day in the athletics office with Branson nearing every day and two teams off at nationals today. I haven't gotten any updates from wrestling or track nationals, but check back for updates/results.

As far as Branson goes, we just planned a social for any fans heading down there to support the team. It will be at our hotel, the Grand Victorian, in the breakfast room Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The team will be there from 4:30 to 5 p.m. and there will be refreshments. If you're in Branson, make sure to swing by this event to wish the team luck before its game!

Today I worked on finishing up the media guide supplement for the national tournament and the "Track the Tigers" tournament Web page so there is one online location for all your DWU tournament needs. I'll link to both when they're online and ready to go.

However, I will give you a sneak preview of the media guide. Here's the outlook I wrote for the media guide supplement about the season so far. Enjoy...

A Season of Firsts
Sports Information Director

The Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team has been associated with the word “first” a lot throughout the 2009-10 season. As in: first place, first-ever Great Plains Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles, first automatic bid to the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Tournament, first team in school history to win 27 games overall and 16 games in conference play and first team in Tiger history to win 20 or more games for four-straight seasons.

However, there’s still a big “first” looming for head coach John Hemenway and his talented squad on March 10 – the first round of the National Tournament. This will be Hemenway and the Tigers’ fourth-straight trip to the National Tournament, but they’re still looking for that first win.

Dakota Wesleyan enters the tournament with high hopes after an unforgettable regular season. The Tigers knew they had plenty of talent heading into the 2009-10 campaign, but questions of chemistry and depth swirled around the team’s preseason expectations, even as they were picked to win the GPAC and ranked fourth in the nation in the Preseason Top 25. How would All-American Preston Broughton bounce back after missing last season with a knee injury? What kind of impact would newcomer Darrin Dorsey have? Could returning All-GPAC players Brady Wiebe, Mitch Bain and Chase Walder continue their progress? How will all the talented pieces fit together?

Four months later, those questions have been answered with a 27-5 overall record, a 16-2 GPAC mark, GPAC regular season and postseason tournament championships, a No. 7 national ranking and a boatload of individual honors. Prior to this season, the Tigers had knocked on the door of both GPAC championships, but this year they didn’t just open that door and go inside. Dakota Wesleyan kicked it down, took both titles and now head to the National Tournament looking for more.

However, the Tigers didn’t have the answers to all those questions right away. This year’s team was a work in progress over the first two months, then a juggernaut over the next two. Broughton got back to 100 percent after knee surgery kept him on the sidelines in 2008-09, but it took him a little while to get all the way back to form. Dorsey showed flashes of his immense potential from the start with a triple-double in his first game, but it also took some time for the playmaking guard and his teammates to learn how to maximize all of their talents. But once the calendar flipped to 2010, everything clicked into place as the team began an incredible run.

After a Dec. 29 loss to Cardinal Stritch University, the Tigers sat at 11-5 overall, however, the team bounced back to beat a good Jamestown College team the next night and they haven’t lost since. Now, 16-straight wins later, DWU enters the National Tournament with the nation’s longest winning streak and more momentum and confidence than the team could have ever imagined.

The perfect record in 2010 is the result of the talent and balance in the Tigers’ starting lineup. Since New Year’s, Dorsey has become a bona-fide star. The junior from Phoenix, Ariz., became the first player in GPAC history to win both Player-of-the-Year and Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors in the same season (he shared the latter with Hastings College’s Jeremiah Slough). He was joined on the All-GPAC First Team by Wiebe and Broughton, who have become one of the best frontcourt tandems in the country. Bain also averaged in double figures and was named to the All-GPAC Second Team, and Walder continued to hit big shots and play good defense to earn his second-straight All-GPAC Honorable Mention award.

However, even with two GPAC trophies and a school record for wins in hand, the Tigers still have unfinished business. This team isn’t happy just earning another trip to Point Lookout, Mo., for the National Tournament. There are still a couple more “firsts” the Tigers want to cross off their list.

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