Friday, February 25, 2011

Congrats to Brady Wiebe!

I think I was more nervous for Brady last night than I was at the end of the Northwestern thriller last week. He needed 24 points heading into last night to reach the 2,000-point mark. He had eight first-half points, and then scored 12 in the first eight minutes of the second half, leaving him four points short with 12 minutes to play.

Well, he hit a layup with five minutes left to get within two. Then missed two sets of free throws. And couldn't for the life of him get a foul call. Or didn't get the ball. Then finally, FINALLY, with 37 seconds left, someone (I think Chase?) got him the ball and he snuck in for a (very contested) layup. You could see the relief on his face. He got a standing ovation from the crowd, and a very supportive student section, which was awesome to see. I wasn't sure how many people knew, but everyone did.

It was really cool to see something like that. Not often you see a guy score 2,000 career points -- he's only the fourth player in Tiger men's history and fifth in DWU basketball history to do so. And he's a very deserving guy. Very nice, down to earth. He also has more than 1,000 rebounds, which is equally as impressive. An amazing career, and hopefully one that's far from over!

A win last night, coupled with a Briar Cliff loss, *pretty much locks DWU in to the at-large mix. Unless, of course, Dordt decides to go all Cinderella story on us and win the tournament, which would really throw a wrench in things. But, before we worry about that -- we worry about Sioux Falls. Again.

DWU is at the University of Sioux Falls tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 26, at 3 p.m. As everyone probably knows, the Coo swept the Tigers in the regular season, including a double overtime win in Sioux Falls a few weeks ago. I think DWU is going to be very, very hungry for a win against their biggest rival. This game will be interesting, because Eric Tisby and Matt Malloy -- who were suspended after a drunken night got them into some trouble -- have been reinstated to the team, and can attend practices and games with the team but not play, so they will likely be at the game. It will be an interesting atmosphere, that's for sure.

Here's what needs to happen. We need to get defensive stops. Stay on their bigs, watch the lane and don't let them go back door on us all the time. Oh, and watch the threes. Then, we need to get Brady the ball, and Larry, Chase, Germ and everyone else need to have big games. If we played like we did during the second half of the Briar Cliff game, we'd be golden.

Stewart Center. Sioux Falls. 3 p.m. Tomorrow. Be there. Who ya rootin' for?

Monday, February 21, 2011

My emcee debut

If you would have told me five years ago that I would have the opportunity to introduce Rollie Fingers and Sen. George McGovern at a baseball banquet, I would have had two reactions. First, I would be confused, because I would have had no idea who either were. Second, I would have laughed, because me, on stage, speaking in front of people? That just doesn't happen. *Didn't happen.

Well, it's funny how time changes things. I made me debut as an emcee Saturday night the the DWU baseball leadership banquet at the Sherman Center. I not only got to introduce Rollie and en. McGovern, I got to meet both men and chat with them beforehand. What an honor.

I'll admit, I had to google Fingers to find out why, exactly, he's so famous (besides the awesome mustache), but once I did, I was impressed. Listening to him talk was even more impressive. He played with Dick Greene and Catfish Hunter and all the baseball greats. He pitched in 16 World Series games and won three championships. He's met all the greats, and played with most of them. He changed the role of the relief pitcher forever.

Sen. McGovern, though more long winded than Rollie, was equally as impressive. He used to be friends with Fidel Castro. He was trying to work with Fidel to get the Yankees to play down in Cuba. He's traveled the world. He ran against Richard Nixon for president (and, as he pointed out, he's pretty sure even Nixon agrees it would have been better had McGovern won, given how that ended up). He went sky diving for his 88th birthday. He has so many stories it's incredible.

I was beyond nervous, because, well, I'm a writer for a reason, but it was fun. I had my speech all typed up and even threw a few funnies in there, and I think it went well. It was quite an experience, though, being on the same stage with men of such stature and such resumes. Something I will surely never forget.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Did that really just happen?

I still can't believe that shot went in. I wrote the press release, sent out the stats, spent the night replaying it in my mind. And it still seems unbelievable. In case you live under a rock and haven't heard, Chase Walder hit a three from about halfway to the midcourt line with 0.3 seconds left to give DWU the go-ahead against No. 10 Northwestern. And when I say hit a three, I mean he drained it. That ball didn't touch the rim. Nothing but net.

I thought the Palace got loud last year when the Tigers beat USF for the GPAC tournament title, but it just erupted last night. Students started swarming the court. Chase fell to the ground after being tackled by teammates. It was mayhem. And it was awesome. I'm pretty sure Jon Hart (who helps me keep stats) has bruises on his right shoulder because I was shaking it so hard after the shot went in.

Between that and the fact that we got a TON of help around the conference, it was a good night. Briar Cliff lost in overtime to Morningside, and Concordia lost by 15 -- at home! -- to Nebraska Wesleyan. DWU entered the night tied for fourth with Concordia, but is now tied for third with the Chargers. The Tigers *should hold the tiebreaker as they beat BCU in the two teams' only meeting this year, putting DWU in third. Which means a bye in the first round (Feb. 22) and a home game in the second (Feb. 24).

Hopefully, this helps secure a trip to nationals for the Tiger men. A win against No. 10 should vault us into the top 20 in the NAIA, plus with BCU and Concordia's losses, we're the third-best team in the league, which should help with an at-large bid if that's what it comes down to.

Although, I shouldn't get ahead of myself. DWU still needs to take care of business Saturday against Hastings. The last thing the Tigers need to do is overlook Hastings and pick up a loss. Also, hopefully Larry Swann is healthy by then. If we beat Northwestern without him, I imagine things would have gone even smoother with him in the game. Poor guy got sick on the court in the first minute of the game. I have a lot of respect for him; he was clearly ill, but started the game and hit a three to start the scoring. And he didn't take a lane violation to get off the court before getting sick. That takes guts.

Anyway... big game. Huge win. Great night. Can't wait to see what happens in the GPAC tournament. Who ya rootin' for?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Big game = understatement

To say that tonight's game against Northwestern College is a big one would be a huge understatement for the Tiger men's basketball team. Northwestern has already clinched the GPAC regular-season title, but a win tonight would do huge things not only for DWU's seeding for the postseason tournament, but also for a potential bid for the national tournament.

The Tigers are 20-7 overall and 10-6 in the GPAC heading into tonight and are tied for Concordia for fourth place. The top five teams get a bye, but it's a good possibility that only the top three teams from the league will get a trip to the national tournament, so DWU really needs to jump a few spots in the league.

We've gotten no help from elsewhere in the league, either. USF won by a single point at Dordt the other day, and Briar Cliff won by two against Concordia last week. So it's up to the Tigers to control their own destiny. A win would put DWU safely in the top four, maybe top three, depending on what else happens around the league.

A win would also be huge for an at-large bid to the national tournament. Northwestern is No. 10 in the NAIA, and a win would mark the fourth time (I think) this season the Tigers had beat a ranked opponent (Black Hills State, Xavier University and Briar Cliff). Those wins (I assume) are huge for at-large bids.

Northwestern beat us 76-67 in Orange City in early January, but the Tigers didn't look like themselves. Their offense wasn't productive and defense couldn't get a stop, and they just couldn't get anything going. The Red Raiders are talented -- and tall -- but nothing DWU can't handle. Hopefully home-court advantage will help us out.

Oh, and another thing we've got going for us (kind of) -- two top-ranked teams in the NCAA lost within a matter of three days this week (including Wisconsin's upset of undefeated Ohio State -- go Badgers!), so I feel like that is a good sign. If unranked K-State can beat Kansas, No. 23 DWU can definitely beat the 10th-ranked team in the country. (Seems logical to me, anyway.)

Hope to see everyone there. We need a huge cheering section. Who ya rootin' for?

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?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Polls, schmolls

Someone asked me yesterday if I could explain the NAIA coaches' poll to them. I told them if I could explain it, I'd have all kinds of coaches calling me all the time so I could explain it to them.

For those of you keeping track, the DWU men's basketball team was No. 23 in the nation last week. If you remember, the Tigers pulled off an incredible upset of then-No. 8 Briar Cliff University. Again, if you recall -- DWU absolutely dominated the Chargers. BCU scored 14 second-half points and couldn't get a thing done. So you'd expect DWU to jump a few spaces in this week's poll. Right?

Wrong. The Tigers did make a jump, but ti was from No. 23 to No. 22 in the NAIA. The Chargers fell to No. 14, which sounds about right, but DWU jumped a single spot. How does that work? Kind of like earlier this season when we upset then-No. 6 Black Hills State in overtime, we went from No. 20 in the preseason poll to No. 21 in the first regular-season poll of the year. And BHSU fell two spots from No. 6 to No. 8.

Rankings don't matter, I suppose, if you don't get it done during games. The Tigers have another big game tomorrow (Wednesday) when they take on the University of Sioux Falls in Sioux Falls, S.D. It's always tough to win in S.F., but this game will be especially interesting. The Cougars just lost their two top players in Matt Malloy and Eric Tisby after the duo was charged with drunk driving and simple assault, respectively. USF beat Doane this weekend without the pair, but that's to be expected. It will be interesting to see how they fare against DWU, and how the Tigers look in the game. Hopefully they don't look past the Coo just because they're without two of their best players.

Who ya rootin' for?