MOUNT PLEASANT – The Iowa Wesleyan College basketball teams have their assignments for their respective Midwest Collegiate Conference tournaments and begin their quests for NAIA national tourney berths starting tomorrow.
The IWC men open conference tournament play on Wednesday against seventh-seeded Ashford University at 7 p.m. at Olan G. Ruble Arena. The Tiger women will then begin their postseason the next night, hosting ninth seed William Penn University on Thursday, also at 7 p.m. at Ruble Arena. Both teams will be chasing MCC tourney championships, as the champions of the MCC men’s and women’s basketball tourneys both receive automatic bids to the NAIA Division II National Tournaments held March 11-17 in Point Lookout, Mo. (men’s tourney) and Sioux City, Iowa (women’s).
Both Wesleyan teams swept a pair of games in the regular season against their quarterfinal opponents in the conference tournament. The Tiger men defeated Ashford 76-59 on Jan. 3 in Mount Pleasant, and then went to Clinton and knocked off the Saints 88-66 on Jan. 31 behind 35 points from Brett Humpal (Sr.-Decorah, Iowa). The women opened their conference season on Dec. 3 with an 80-64 win at William Penn and then posted an 80-56 win over the Lady Statesmen at home on Jan. 26.
The Tigers are hoping to spend a lot of time at home in the MCC basketball tourneys, as both Wesleyan squads are seeded high in their events. The IWC men are seeded second in their tournament, while the Tiger women are the top seed in the women’s tourney and as such have clinched home court advantage throughout. The higher seeded team in each matchup in the conference tournament is the home team, which means if they continue to win the Wesleyan men would be guaranteed to host a minimum of two games and the Tiger women would host all three of their games.
Both Wesleyan basketball teams enter the postseason on similar rolls. The Tiger men have won nine of their last ten games led by an offense that has been red hot. IWC is averaging 83.8 points per game over its last ten and is shooting 52.6% from the field over that time. That included a 63.8% shooting display this past Saturday in a 99-72 win over Waldorf College in which the Tigers shot 17-for-24 on three-pointers, including 11 of 14 on triples in the second half.
With its strong play Wesleyan has started knocking on the doors of the national rankings, as this week the Tigers came in just outside the top 25 in the most recent NAIA Division II coaches’ poll. IWC was ranked 27th this week, the team’s best showing in the polls this season. To get through the postseason tourney and clinch a bid to the NAIA Division II National Tournament, though, IWC will have to get by competition including conference regular season champion Grand View University, which swept a pair of games from the Tigers earlier this year, as well as William Penn University, the defending MCC Tournament champions and the third seed in the tourney.
The IWC women also have won nine of their last ten games to climb into the NAIA Division II rankings at 23rd this week. The Tigers clinched their second MCC regular season title in four years with a 68-63 win at Waldorf College on Saturday and are one win away from their fourth consecutive 20-win season. The women also carry a 22-game home court winning streak into the conference tournament, a mark that will be tested as the college begins its spring break on Friday and many of the students will be away for the tournament games.
The Tigers will face stiff competition from a number of teams including Grand View and Mount Mercy College, both of which split their home-and-home series against Wesleyan in the regular season and both also who tied for second in the conference, one game behind IWC. Fourth seed St. Ambrose University is also the defending conference tournament champions, and a possible matchup with the Queen Bees awaits in the semifinals if Wesleyan defeats William Penn and Ambrose can get past fifth-seeded Waldorf.
After the quarterfinals on Wednesday, the MCC men’s basketball tourney continues with semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. at home sites and the championship game Sunday night at 6 p.m. The women’s tournament features four quarterfinals on Thursday and continues Saturday with semifinals at 2 p.m. and the championship Monday night at 7 p.m. KILJ Radio 105.5 FM will be broadcasting Wednesday night’s men’s quarterfinal game between Iowa Wesleyan and Ashford and is planning to broadcast possible semifinal and final matchups for both teams as well should IWC advance that far.
For more information regarding the IWC basketball programs or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics. MCC Tournament information including brackets, pairings and starting dates and times can be found on the conference Web site at www.midwestcollegiateconference.com.