Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring has sprung... and is almost over?

So I was completely wiped out after our 10-hour drive home from Branson (and the subsequent drive back from Mitchell to Sioux Falls and back that same day/night to watch my friend's band play) and meant to blog that next day or early that next week. Well, that's been two weeks ago now, and I have slipped into forgetting to blog again. I swear I'll do better the rest of the spring.

Anyway... I don't want to lapse back to the national tournament too much but... I thought we had Northwood. We got it down to a three-point game, then couldn't score. I think if we would have tied that game or even taken a small lead, we would have had it. They were cocky, and you can't tell they weren't used to losing, or even playing close games. One thing I noticed down there is that teams and coaches are generally very, very friendly. They're excited to be in Branson at the national tournament, and they'll sit there and chat with you about the teams, the weather, their trip, their season, where you're from, anything. Northwood did not give off that vibe. They seemed stuck up, like they thought they were better than everyone. Which, yes, they were good. Very good. But very beatable.

Anyway... that's over and done with. Great season for the Tiger men. The offseason has been good to them, too. Brady Wiebe earned All-America First Team honors -- the third All-American honors of his career. Coach Shane Murphy signed Luke Bamberg and Kris Menning, a duo of high scorers and talented players from nearby Corsica/Stickney. Those two, along with Jalen Voss, should mean good things for the future of the program.

And now, it's baseball/softball season. Which seems nuts. We've actually had a handful of home baseball games, though. They haven't been particularly warm, but DWU is playing baseball in March in South Dakota, which is fairly impressive. The softball team hasn't been so lucky, but is hoping to change that Friday with a doubleheader against Peru State.

The baseball team has struggled a bit this season, mostly because it is very, very young. There are only a handful of upperclassmen on the team, and some of those upperclassmen are seeing playing time for the first year, so they don't have that big-game experience. Thomas Pickett and Ethan Opsahl have both excelled, though. Both have won a GPAC Pitcher-of-the-Week award after big performances. Opsahl leads the league with 38 strikeouts and Pickett is second with 31.

The softball team is also young, but experienced because these kids have been playing since they were freshmen. Brandi Nekrassoff earned GPAC Pitcher-of-the-Week honors last week for her part in helping DWU sweep previously undefeated Nebraska Wesleyan.

I know it's only the end of March, but graduation is April 30, so spring sports are coming to a close rather quickly! Which is nuts to think about.

Like I said, I promise I'll blog more this spring season. Who ya rootin' for?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Game 2: So close.

We could have had them. We had chances. We should have upset the 2 seed. If only we'd scored more than one point in the last three minutes of the game. If only a few more of our threes would have gone in. I think if we could have gotten one big shot in the final minutes of the game, it would have rattled Northwood and we'd have won.

They were panicked. In the second half when we started making a run and chipping away at the lead... they got sloppy and tight and started fighting with each other. They didn't know how to react. Just one more three, and I think they would have internally collapsed.

But, we didn't. And they didn't collapse. Northwood was tall and athletic and strong and very solid. But they are for sure beatable. Brady had a great game, despite being outsized down low. Fourteen huge rebounds and 19 points. What a career he has had.

I really wanted us to win for several reasons, but one reason was because the Oklahoma Wesleyan scouts I was sitting between didn't take a single note about us. Not one. They had a page and a half worth of notes on Northwood's plays and personnel and whatnot. They had a corner of the page marked off labeled DWU, but nothing written down. I really wanted to win and make them feel stupid. It's not like Northwood killed us. They didn't have it wrapped up; it wasn't a for sure win. Seeing that made me mad.

Excellent season for the Tigers. Considering we were at one point in the middle of the GPAC race and now went 1-1 at the national tournament... an excellent season with some very, very big wins. No one on this team has anything to be ashamed of. Especially after tonight. We left everything on that court. And it showed.

Again, I want to mention how very blessed I, and everyone involved with DWU athletics, am/are. There is so much support for the athletes and staff from the families, the athletes, the community. Families adopt players whose families live far away and invite them into their homes. Welcome new families into the Tiger athletic family. It's amazing to see, and be a part of.

Growing up, I never thought I'd say this, but I am already anxious for next year's basketball season. Who ya rootin' for?!

Game day #2: 3:19 p.m.

I'm a little bit anxious now. Still not as bad as yesterday. I wouldn't say I have a positive or negative feeling about the game, I just feel like it's going to be fun. This is a chance for the Tigers to prove to everyone what they're made of and what they can do. I'm very excited.

Branson is a great host city for this tournament. Moving this tournament would be an absolute shame. Went down to the landing today and wandered through the shops. What a beautiful area -- and the 60+ degree weather and sunshine sure didn't hurt! Made sure to soak up plenty of that; not sure when it'll get that warm in South Dakota. Also hit up the Titanic exhibit and the Hollywood Wax Museum. Both were very fun and entertaining. My character survived the Titanic sinking -- Curt's didn't.

Another thing about Branson: everyone is so incredibly nice. Very helpful, very friendly. Asking where you're from, what school you're with, wishing you good luck. All the teams and coaches are friendly as well. We're in the same hotel as Oregon Tech and Eastern Oregon (and Northwest, who already lost), and they are all very nice. It's such a great, welcoming atmosphere.

I haven't come up with any great game plan or idea for tonight. Basically, we need to do what we did last night. Maybe even a little better. They're big and talented, but we have a whole lot of heart, and that goes a long way. I'm hoping we can show Rollie and his Florida boys a thing or two.

Time to get ready to head to CofO. I'm quite excited for another hospitality room dinner. The spinach lasagna and strawberry rhubarb pie last night was amazing.

Get ready, Tiger fans. Tonight should be exciting. Who ya rootin' for?!

Game day #2: 10:30 a.m.

Well I am definitely not as nervous for tonight's game. Not compared to yesterday at this time. I'm still pumped up about how well we played last night. The Tigers will definitely need to play like that again today against the No. 2 team in the nation. I think this one will be fun, though. We've got wins against four top-10 teams... why not see where we stack up with Rollie and his Northwood squad?

I've heard from several people that Northwood is good, but not unbeatable. They're big, but so was Grace. They're taller than we are, but so is everyone else we play. They're athletic, but hey. This is college basketball.

Just a short post this morning. Went for a run (this town is uphill no matter where you go), now off to the marina and then to find some touristy things to do. More later.

Who ya rootin' for?! (Keep yelling!)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Game 1: We win!

(Jordan Long and Brady Wiebe go up for a rebound against Grace. Photo by Brian Beard, Creative Images Photography)

After a day of being anxious... we did it! It did take me until the very end of the game to stop fidgeting, though. I was sitting next to the Oklahoma Wesleyan coach, and he got a kick out of my finger tapping, white knuckled antics.

But seriously -- what a game. At the reception today, Shane talked about how this needs to be a team effort, how, when everyone works together for a common good, we can achieve so much more, and I think the guys took it to heart. That was the best collective team effort I have seen all year. The Briar Cliff game was great, and Northwestern, but this was fantastic. Our bench outscored their bench 26-4. That hasn't happened all year. Everyone made at least one huge contribution. Bo hit three big 3s. Jordan had 8 points, 8 rebounds, several assists and a few blocks. He was everywhere. Jake hit a big three. And Matt Dykstra had a few huge rebounds and three HUGE blocked shots. Germ had 11 points. Justin Nelson had 11 points and a few key rebounds and steals. Brady had 16 points. Chase had 7, including a late three to help seal it. The list goes on and on. Everyone had a hand in this win, and that is something they should be ridiculously proud of.

I wasn't impressed by Grace's bigs. Not even a little bit. Duke Johnson, their really good big guy, had some good shots, but they were all 18 footers. Not at all impressive down low or in the post. And Dykstra... Dykstra came out and just decided he was going to shut them down and play around them. And he did. He, and the whole team, shut them down. I was worried about No. 33 for awhile... he had a good first half... but he got quiet in the second. They were good, but nothing special. Tall, but that doesn't mean much if you don't take advantage of it.

This means... bring on Northwood! The No. 2 team in the country. Coached by Rollie Massimino, they are in the top 5 in the nation in several statistical categories. They lead the nation in 3-point percentage (.410) and are second in field-goal percent defense (.382) and total assists (571). Jon Dunn is fourth in points per game (23.8) and Pat Horstmann is eighth in rebounds per game (10.1). They're tall... but we learned tonight that doesn't necessarily mean much.

I watched Northwood a little bit today, but I don't think it was too indicative of how they normally play. They played Fisher, who's 15-15, doesn't seem to know what a shot clock is for and whose offense seems to be whoever gets the ball first shoots. It was pretty sloppy. Northwood wasn't working too hard, but it really didn't half to. I guess time will tell!

I'm so glad not to be nervous anymore. We'll see how tomorrow goes. I think I'm going to play tourist for awhile so maybe I'll forget about being nervous until closer to game time.

Hope everyone stays tuned in tomorrow! Who ya rootin' for?!

Game day: 3:18 p.m.

Still nervous. Getting worse, actually. I have about an hour of down time before we head over to the CofO campus to watch Northwood play, too, so I have lots of time to think.

In my thinking, I came to a realization. I am very lucky. We are very blessed. We have an amazing new coach who is great to work with and has done great things with a program full of amazing guys. Those guys, a group that was thrown together semi last minute, have bought into this new coach and everything Dakota Wesleyan stands for and found a way --despite being a "down year" -- to make it back to the national tournament.

Shane spoke this afternoon at a reception at the hotel (which was well attended -- the Tigers should have a good crowd tonight!) and said that obviously he wants to get a win tonight, but no matter what -- we're at the national tournament right now. We're one of 32 teams in the entire country who were able to make the trip to the national tournament. It reminded me of Herb Brooks' speech during the gold medal game at the 1980 Olympics in Miracle, where he reminds the team where they are and what they're playing for. Our team, coaches, staff, fans -- we're in Branson, Missouri, watching teams play in the national tournament. Not a lot of people get this opportunity, especially not year after year. We are very lucky.

Thinking about that made me less nervous. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Then I stepped back in and looked at the small picture. Still nervous.

In other news, Northwestern is down late against... whoever they're playing. Looks like it's up to the Tigers to pick up a win so the GPAC doesn't go 0-4 down here.

Who ya rootin' for?! (Get loud!!)

Game day: 9:44 a.m.

Well, it's here. Game day. At the national tournament. I don't know how the guys are feeling right now, but I know I'm already anxious. I have a feeling it's going to be a long day, waiting for that 5:45 p.m. game. At least we don't play the last game of the night series; I'd probably jump out of my skin.

As you saw in Mr. Aadland's blog, we had a good night last night. I didn't go to practice (I went to the free media reception and got some little goodies instead), but I went to the Outback Oyster Bar to eat with the team and got in on the alligator tail trying. I enjoyed it. And it was hilarious to watch everyone else try it. The Parade of Champions was pretty neat. It got a little long, lining up 32 teams, but it was a neat little event. The USF/Ozarks game was very cool to watch. Ozarks gets a great crowd in that gym, and they are loud. I can't imagine how fun that would be, to play your national tournament games on your home court. The Corn Palace would be rocking if Mitchell were ever to host.

It's too bad the GPAC went 0-2 yesterday. USF (I feel) was a much more deep and talented team than Ozarks, but they couldn't hit anything. They shot 29 percent in the second half. I think Hubbard -- you know, the guy who didn't miss a shot the three times we played them -- had five points, all in the second half. They were 2-for-19 from three-point range and just couldn't get anything done. Maxwell was steady as usual, and Bloch had a good first half, but nobody really did much in the second.

I feel like my posts need to be more in-depth now that Cory has shown what he can do. I might have to pass the blogging portion of my job on to him... nah.

Reception from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Mont Clair Reception Room here at the Grand Plaza in Branson; everyone wearing royal blue and white should be there. If you're in Mitchell, Blarney's and the Scoreboard will be showing the game live. Let's go, Tigers. Who ya rootin' for?!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aadland's Thoughts Part 2 (Guest Blog)

Associate Athletic Director Cory Aadland's final thoughts from Wednesday in Branson.

Just got back from the Parade of Champions and the USF-College of Ozarks game. This was my second time seeing the Parade of Champions and even though you know exactly what's going to happen and it's the same thing over and over, it is still a pretty cool experience to see all 32 teams announced with their players, coaches and honorary coaches (who are members of the community involved with local businesses that serve as sponsors and hosts for each of the teams for their entire time in Branson). I hope the guys involved enjoy this experience because it is something that is very unique to the NAIA.

As I closed my last entry we were on our way to eat with the team at the Outback Steak and Oyster Bar. You think the Outback Steakhouse is an authentic Australian restaurant? I don't think I've ever seen gator tail on their menu. Coach Greene ordered a full order of it and after seeing it Larry Swann asked the server what it was. After explaining what it was the server asked Larry if he wanted to try some. I think his response was something along the lines of "heck no!" The server insisted and brought him out a small plate to sample. After trying it himself he walked around to the rest of the tables in our group offering it up to any curious and/or gullible sole who was willing to give it a try. I resisted at first but then figured when would the next time I would have this chance be. And it really does taste just like chicken! So I can now say I've tried gator tail and I can safely say that I won't need to do that again. I had way too many things going through my head as I was chewing. But really this is what makes the national tournament experience so unique for people like me. I see these guys all year along almost every day, but to get to do things like try gator tail and spend more time with them is something that I really enjoy. We've got a great group of young men on this team and it really is a privilege to even be associated with them.

So back to my observations from this afternoon's practice. One thing that I was really amazed by was the complexity of the schemes in basketball at this level. Of course I knew there were plenty of offenses sets and different defenses but to hear Coach Murphy go through just a few of the sets he's seen on film with Grace was mind boggling. Then there was the different terminology our guys use for our defensive scheme... can anybody tell me what being in "white" position means? No, how about "l" position? Or maybe "strong" position? A long ways from the "stay between your man and the basket" philosophy we all learned in 5th grade!

After walking through a few different sets and then again at a more game-tempo pace, it was on to something that really caught me off guard and impressed me more than anything... fundamentals! Don't get me wrong; I believe fundamentals are extremely important in any sport, but here these guys were the day before they play the opening round of the national tournament and they split up between shooters, bigs and ball handlers working on the same things they did the first day of practice! After a good 10 minutes of fundamentals it was on to some free throws where I witnessed my highlight of practice... Coach Murphy jumping up and hanging on the back of the rim making faces at Justin Nelson trying to distract him while he was shooting! Who says coaches can't loosen up and have a little fun every now and then!

The last 10 minutes of practice were spent scrimmaging at game speed and let me tell you they got after it. And when I say they got after it, I'm talking everybody... players and coaches both. It made me think of how these mild mannered coaches that I see in the office every day turn into almost completely different people when they get into practice or games. And I'm not talking about just our men's basketball coaches... I'm talking all of our sports. The enthusiasm, intensity and passion that each of our coaches put into their programs on a daily basis is truly amazing. Seeing that passion during games can be expected, but these coaches have that same passion day in and day out that most of us only see when it comes to game-days.

Practice came to a conclusion after some more free throws as all the guys made their way to half court, highlighted by German Madueno's cartwheel, which to me was a perfect ending to a practice the day before a big game. These guys are serious about what they do and they work extremely hard at it, but at the same time they're having fun and enjoying the experience. I don't know what else you could ask for. With the team together Coach Murphy told them of the specifics of the agenda for the remainder of the day including specifically what they were to wear for the Parade of Champions, team travel gear pants and blue polos. He made sure to explain extremely clearly that they were to wear those exact pants and not some other version so they could all look the same. As the team walked off the court Coach Mueller made his way over to me with a slightly concerned look on his face. As he got to me he whispered so that Coach Murphy couldn't hear him, "I didn't bring my travel pants!" I hope no one noticed tonight, but I know I sure did!

All in all today was a great day...slightly long but still a lot of fun. Here's to hoping that tomorrow is an even better day. A win tomorrow night is no small task but very well within us, and I'd like to stick around here for a few more days so the weather has a chance to warm up! Remember for all fans here in Branson that we will be holding a reception from 1:00-3:00 tomorrow afternoon at the Grand Plaza Hotel and we want as many people there as we can get. So come over and enjoy some time with the team and fellow fans as we get ready to cheer on our Tigers.

Who ya rootin for?

Tiger Talk's first guest blogger!

Everyone, welcome Associate Athletic Director Cory Aadland to the Tiger Talk Blog!

Just got back from the men's practice at the Branson RecPlex. We walked in to catch the end of GPAC Conference Champion Northwestern's practice as they were practicing right before us. After some stretching and loosening up, the guys got into full court drills with some shooting and it didn't take long for Coach Murphy to make a quick adjustment to the practice plan as the guys weren't shooting as well as he would have liked (to which I agreed) so they went into some 2 man shooting and spent a good 7-8 minutes just working on their shots. It was clear after just a few minutes that the guys started to get their shots going as the number of balls going through the hoop far outnumbered the missed ones.

Once Shane was pleased with their shooting he got into some Grace specifics starting with transition defense. It's no secret that Grace is a big team and Coach Murphy stressed that while they won't necessarily play all that uptempo and push the ball, they will use the transition to get their bigs position down low and look to throw the ball up if they can get our guys buried down low. He stressed that our bigs need to be aware of that and look to check up their guys early and not let them get the position they are looking for. To drill this he had our guys work through an offensive set to get a shot and then transition back to defense while Coach Mueller and Coach Greene went 2 on 5 against guys just slightly younger than them! It was entertaining to say the least.

Next topic on the Grace scouting report was their half court sets and once again their size advantage down low. Coach Murphy really talked up how good their big to big high-low action is and how well they work together. They use a lot of different action but ultimately what they're trying to do is get a post up near the free throw line and the other down low near the block. He also stressed how important it will be for our off ball defenders to be active with help defense. Without a question my favorite quote of the practice was when Coach Murphy addressed our size disadvantage and said "I'm the tallest guy on our team...but I can't play! But even though they're taller than we are I still believe we can be successful down low." While we could surely use Coach Murphy's height underneath, good team defense can overcome that disadvantage with good position and good communication.

I've got more from practice that I have to save for later because we are off to eat with the team at the Outback Steak and Oyster Bar before we head back to Keeter Gymnasium for the Parade of Champions which will be followed by GPAC rival University of Sioux Falls playing host school College of the Ozarks which is always a great atmosphere.

Who ya rootin for!

(This also marks the first 'to be continued' version of the Tiger Talk Blog)

One session in the books in Branson

For someone who used to hate basketball with a passion, I sure do love the national tournament. Basketball, good food, basketball, good people, basketball and plenty of entertainment. It's so interesting and fun to watch teams from around the country and talk to coaches and players and see what they think of Branson and hear about their seasons. Everyone is super nice and excited to be at the tournament.

Watched portions of two different games today. Briar Cliff played Davenport (Mich.) in the first game of the tournament. BCU got down early, but made it a game late. Davenport had a few huge turnovers late, but the Chargers couldn't completely bridge the gap. It was a two- or three-point game in the final minute, but Davenport held on. Black Hills State took on Holy Names next. Hills went up big early, but got really sloppy late in the first half and early in the second and HN got within four or five. Hills ended up winning by 20, I believe.

I also caught a glimpse of the Bellevue/Ashford game this afternoon when I went back for a media reception (got homemade apple butter and a hand-made candle!) and all I can tell you is Bellevue is very, very tall.

I am thoroughly enjoying Branson. College of the Ozarks does a fantastic job with this tournament. The day it gets moved elsewhere will be a sad day.

Tonight: dinner with the team, Parade of Champions and USF vs. CofO. That should be a great game; I've heard they absolutely pack the place.

T-25ish hours until game time. Getting excited! Who ya rootin' for?!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Night 1 in Branson

Made it safely to Branson around 9 p.m.; a solid 10-hour drive (with three stops) from Mitchell. It rained almost the entire drive, and was a very slushy, snow-like substance for awhile. Hit Kansas City around rush hour (and totally missed 435, which takes you around downtown KC), but even that wasn't too bad. Passed by some interesting towns (Peculiar, Humanville? and Amazonian were my favorite) and saw some interesting scenery through the rain and fog.

I've already eaten at Steak and Shake in Branson, which is absolutely delicious. Their burgers are awesome and their cookies and cream milkshake rivals that of Chik-fil-A, which makes amazing milk shakes. Most everything was closed by the time we got to town, but we've already got a small agenda while in town.

Speaking of agendas... tomorrow we're going to watch Briar Cliff and Black Hills State play for awhile. DWU is practicing at one of Branson's new rec centers, which I might go watch, and the Champions of Character banquet is tomorrow. Sioux Falls also plays Ozarks tomorrow, which should be a great game. I've heard Ozarks absolutely packs the gym for their games, which would be fun to see.

Our Tiger squad seems to be in good spirits. Everyone's having a good time, and coach Murphy said practices have been good so far. I think he's very excited to be back here after being out of basketball for two seasons.

More tomorrow. Be sure to watch DWU Athletics Twitter as I'll be posting there quite regularly. Should be a fun couple of days. Who ya rootin' for?

T-1 hour to departure!

I should probably be doing my dishes or something, but instead I'm updating all my social media (this, Twitter and Facebook) to make sure all our loyal Tiger fans are as up to date as possible before I sit in a car for 10-plus hours on the trek down south! The DWU National Tournament page is now up and running on the DWU athletics page. Check that out for game stories and links to all sorts of fun things (like where to watch/listen to the game live if you can't make it to Branson!).

I've been looking at blogs from Grace College and NAIA message boards for a few days. Seems like DWU is the slight underdog in this first-round game, but I think that's OK. We've got four wins under top-1o teams under our belt already; bring on the No. 15. Grace is tall, yes, but other than that they seem very similar to the Tigers. Should be an interesting game.

Game notes aside... last year I was in Branson for a total of about 20 hours. (Got there Friday for the second-round game and left early Saturday morning.) It was fun, but I didn't get to do much! This year, I'm definitely going back to the Rib Crib, along with a few other rib places I hope, and wherever other tasty places our senses may lead us. There was also a wax museum across from my hotel last year that I really wanted to get to. Maybe this year. Oh, and I definitely want to hit up the hospitality room more this year. And watch more basketball, I suppose.

Time to finish getting packed/ready. Off to Branson! Who ya rootin' for?!

Monday, March 7, 2011

More on Grace

Did I mention this morning how tall Grace is? Pretty tall. But...

They had three All-Mid Central College Conference players this year. Bruce Grimm, Jr. (the guy who may or may not play Thursday) earned first-team honors, was named to the Newcomers Team and named the Newcomer of the Year. He transferred to Grace from East Tennessee State, an NCCA Division I program, and was the Indiana Mr. Basketball Runner-Up in 2009. Let's not forget that our Justin Nelson was named Wyoming's Gatorade Boys' Basketball Player-of-the-Year before he came to DWU!

Duke Johnson, who leads the team in scoring, earned All-MCC Second Team honors and Dave Henry earned Honorable Mention. Well, the Tigers can certainly match that with the GPAC Player-of-the-Year (Brady Wiebe) and two Second Team honorees (Chase Walder and Larry Swann). Both teams seem to be pretty matched up scoring-wise; Grace has three guys in double digits, a few between six and nine and then everyone else is around two or three points per game and DWU is about the same.

DWU is averaging 73.7 points per game and giving up 67.1 and Grace averages 76.6 points per game and gives up 67.7 Both teams have played -- and beaten -- a handful of teams in the national tournament field. Grace beat the University of Saint Francis twice with losses to Davenport and Indiana Wesleyan. It also played Indiana Southeast and Indiana... East? (too many directions for me). DWU has played USF, Briar Cliff, Northwestern and Black Hills and beaten Briar Cliff, Northwestern and Black Hills.

Height aside, Grace is very, very similar to us. A few big wins, a few tough losses and some guys who really know how to score. Whichever team puts together a cleaner game and has a few guys step up and have a big night will win.

I head to Branson tomorrow morning. I will be updating regularly. I will also be tweeting from my handy dandy droid and updating to DWU Athletics' Facebook page as much as possible. Should be a good time... hope to see all you Tiger fans in blue and white come Thursday!!

Who ya rootin' for?!

Grace College... early findings

Just started doing some research on Grace College. Here's what I've got so far:

They're tall. Two 6-foot-11 guys, five guys 6-6 or better, 15 guys 6-0 or better. I know the 'official roster' can only have 15 guys on it, though, so hopefully some of those 15 stay home.

They've got some solid players. Duke Johnson (6-11, C) averages 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. Bruce Grimm, Jr. averages 13.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Then they've got David Henry (10.0 p, 1.7 a) and Greg Miller (9.8 p, 6.0 r). BUT... according to a blog I found on Grace's athletic page, Grimm is questionable for Tuesday's game. So that might help.

They've got some quality wins. Grace beat No. 13 University of Saint Francis twice by a combined six points (including a one-point win) and lost to them in the conference semifinals. They've also beaten Indiana East and lost to Indiana Southeast, No. 12 Davenport and No. 9 Indiana Wesleyan twice. All five are in the national tournament field.

Time to do more digging.

Friday, March 4, 2011

National Tournament!

I promised a post after we found out who the Tiger men's first-round opponent in the national tournament is. This is going to be short, but it's been a long week, and I have some research to do yet.

DWU plays Grace College from Winona Lake, Ind., at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, March 10. Here's what I know about Grace: they're 20-10, they lost in the semifinals of the Mid-Central Conference tournament and they are apparently a very big team. From what I'm hearing, Brady's going to have to work even harder than he already does to score because Grace's bigs are going to be working on him hard.

That's about all I've got for you. I also know, however, that Grace was one of the teams Shane had figured into his equation of who the Tigers could play, and he's optimistic/pleased with this match up. So time will tell, I suppose. Oh, also (not that I'm counting chickens, it's just an interesting little side note): should DWU win its first-round game, it likely will take on No. 2 Northwood and their legendary coach (whose name escapes me right now) in the second round.

I have three thoughts on that: 1) We have to worry about the first round first. 2) Yikes! 3) We've already beat four top-10 teams -- bring on another!!

In other national tournament action... DWU junior heavyweight Josh Geppert beat -- no, not just beat: pinned!! -- the top-ranked wrestler in the nation in the quarterfinals at the NAIA Wrestling National Championships this afternoon and will wrestle in the semifinals tonight. The Tigers' only national champ -- in any sport -- is wrestler Justin Portenier in 2002. He is also the only wrestler ever to take second at nationals. Let's go, Josh!!!

More thoughts on Grace next week. Hope to see a bunch of familiar faces in Branson Thursday. I will be making the trek down either very late Tuesday night (weather permitting) or Wednesday morning. Oh, also -- there will be a reception at the Grand Plaza Hotel (where the team is staying and fans are encouraged to stay) from 1 to 3 p.m. in one of the conference rooms on Thursday before DWU's first-round game. All Tiger fans in Branson should stop by!

Who ya rootin' for?!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Big day!

What a day it's been! Scratch that... what a week! We'll start with the highlights of the day. Drum roll please...

  • Brady Wiebe is the GPAC Player-of-the-Year! (And All-GPAC First Team)
  • Chase Walder and Larry Swann were both named to the All-GPAC Second Team
  • The Tiger men fell just a single spot to No. 18 in the final NAIA poll of the season, basically ensuring them a spot in the NAIA national tournament
  • DWU received the 7th at-large bid to the national tournament!
The athletic offices at DWU have been busy with excitement since about 3 p.m. when the official at-large bid was announce. We've been pretty sure that we'd get in since we upset Northwestern a few weeks back, but Dordt potentially winning the GPAC tournament title and getting the second automatic bid for the league could have thrown a wrench in things (we thought). But they didn't win, so it doesn't matter!

Ok, a few thoughts on today's happenings. Brady is the fourth POY to come from DWU in the past five seasons. Brock Seim won in 2007, Preston Broughton in 2008, Darrin Dorsey last year and now Wiebe this year. I can't even put into words what that says about the Tiger men's basketball program. That's huge. That means that, since the GPAC started in 2000, DWU has won four of the 11 conference player of the year awards. That's a pretty good ratio for DWU. And an excellent honor for Wiebe, who, despite not being the most athletic of basketball players, led the league in scoring and rebounding and the fourth player in DWU men's basketball history to score 2,000 points. He'll also likely become the first men's basketball player to earn All-American honors three time. Not a bad career.

Nationals. We'll find out who we play in the first round in a few hours here, but I couldn't wait to post. Too much going on in my brain right now, I'd forget something. Coach Murphy feels pretty confident about whoever we play with the 7th at-large bid. We weren't the last team in. Hotel arrangements are already being made and travel plans finalized. I can't wait! (More on nationals later when we figure out who we play in the first round and how the seeding pans out.) There will be four GPAC teams in Branson. Northwestern is the No. 12 seed, USF is No. 15 and Briar Cliff took the 10th at-large bid. It will be interesting to see who they draw as well.

A tidbit on the GPAC semifinal game in Sioux Falls... first of all, we had way more fans there than USF did. Second of all... a few guys had OK games, but no one really stood out. Germ hit some big shots, and Larry had a big three at the end to get it down to a two-point game, but no one could hit the huge shots. And we couldn't get a stop. USF has a very solid offense, and all of their guys can shoot. The Coo went on a 10-0 run to end the first half that just killed us. I think if we could have stopped that run or slowed them down, we would have been OK.

As if preparing for Branson wasn't exciting enough (or enough work!), I'm also trying to keep track of our wrestling and indoor track teams at nationals this week and get the Tiger softball and baseball teams ready to play week-long tournaments in Arizona over spring break. Yikes! I have plenty to do in the next few days, that's for sure.

That's all for now. More tomorrow or Friday about the first round of the national tournament. Here's hoping it's warm in Branson next week. Who ya rootin' for?