Monday, February 7, 2011

The pressure is on

I hate to break it to the Tiger men's basketball team (as if they weren't already aware), but the pressure is now on. A heartbreaking, double overtime loss to its biggest rival left DWU on the bubble of GPAC teams hoping to make a trip to the NAIA National Tournament in Branson, Mo. A win wouldn't have secured a trip, necessarily, but it sure wouldn't have hurt. And it would have taken a lot of pressure off for DWU's last home game of the season against Northwestern. Now, talk around the athletics office is that DWU has to win out it's last three regular-season games, and winning the conference tournament wouldn't hurt, either.

Let's back up a minute. To that double overtime thriller. What. A. Game. I thought my heart was going to stop on no less than four separate occasions. Once when Larry Swann's soft little layup (a shot that had gone in earlier in the game) hung on the rim and then slowly, so slowly, fell out as the buzzer sounded in regulation. Once when Chase Walder went up for his 3-point shot late in the first overtime. Once when Jordan Long slammed home that amazing dunk and missed the free throw to tie the game. Once when Brady Wiebe was called for a travel (really?). And once when Wiebe was called for his fifth foul (again, really? A touch foul? In a game like that?). Such a good game. It could easily have gone the other way, but USF is the real deal. I almost feel like they played better without Malloy and Tisby because different people are playing different roles; roles they're not comfortable with, which makes them work harder. It'll be tough down the stretch for them, but I don't expect them to go out quietly.

The Tigers won't go out quietly either, however. Wiebe and Walder haven't missed a trip to Branson in the first three years of their Tiger careers, so I don't know why their senior seasons would be any different. The Tigers host Mount Marty and Northwestern and go to Hastings to end the regular season. As of today, DWU is in fifth behind Northwestern, USF, Briar Cliff and Concordia. With their schedules combined with the Tigers winning out, DWU could put itself in good position. Then, anything can happen in the conference tournament.

Basically, what it all boils down to -- DWU needs to play every night like it did in the second half of the Briar Cliff game. That was the best the Tigers have played all year, and if they play like that they'll beat anyone. National tournament opponents included... but now I'm getting ahead of myself. First thing's first... Mount Marty Wednesday. 8 p.m. Corn Palace.

Who ya rootin' for?

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