MOUNT PLEASANT – The Iowa Wesleyan College men’s and women’s basketball teams both have tough tasks with their opponents from Oregon in the first round of the NAIA Division II National Championships.
The Tiger teams have been in preparation for tournament play for the past few days and on Monday left for their respective national tournament destinations. The Wesleyan men departed for Branson, Mo. at 9 a.m. Monday morning and the Tiger women left for Sioux City, Iowa at noon.
If absolutely nothing else, IWC will have a good idea where it stands in relation to the Cascade Collegiate Conference after this week, for the Tiger men and women both are facing teams from the 11-team league in the Northwest made up of schools from Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The Cascade Conference is regarded as one of the premier basketball conferences in NAIA Division II and has four men’s and three women’s programs qualified for the national championships.
The Wesleyan men face a daunting task with their opener Wednesday night against Oregon Tech, the seventh seed nationally in the tourney. The Hustlin’ Owls are the defending national champions in NAIA Division II, were ranked #1 for a good portion of the season, and come in with a 28-5 record.
The Owls are coached by Danny Miles, who is in his 38th season at the school and has won 875 career games. He leads active coaches in NAIA Division II in wins and has won a pair of national championships.
Miles coaches a team that typically plays a nine-man rotation and has won nine of its last 10 games heading into the postseason. Name a statistical category and the Owls are likely among the national leaders. Oregon Tech is third in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.414 to 1), fourth in rebound margin (+9.7 pts per game), sixth in scoring margin (+14.6 ppg), 11th in free throw percentage (73.3%) and 21st in field goal percentage (47.8%), to name a few.
Individually, Oregon Tech is led offensively by 5-8 guard Jguwon Hogges, who averages 18.9 points per game. Other than Hodges, the Owls are all about size, starting the tallest frontline IWC will have seen this season with players going 6-6, 6-8 and 6-10 in the post. After Hodges, Justin Parnell, a 6-4 junior guard, also adds 15.5 points a game and Christian Cavanaugh, a 6-10 center, chips in 13.3 points per game.
The Tigers will look to combat the Hustlin’ Owls with one of the hottest offenses in the country. IWC averaged 85.6 points per game over its final 13 games, a spell in which the Tigers posted a 12-1 record. Wesleyan shot 52.5% from the field over that time, including 40.9% on three-point attempts.
IWC has bombed away from three-point land all season, setting a new school record for three-point attempts (729) and with 270 made triples is nearing the school record of 284 triples made in a season. The Tigers ranked ninth in the country in threes made per game (9.0) and 24th in three-point percentage (37.0%). Wesleyan is also 14th nationally in field goal percentage (48.5%) and 15th in assists per game (17.1).
IWC will be looking for its first win ever in the national tournament, as the Tigers are 0-2 in two previous appearances in the NAIA Division II national tournament. Wesleyan lost in the first round to Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) 87-81 in 2006, and two years before that lost its opener to MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) University by an 84-70 score. Iowa Wesleyan also advanced to the NAIA Division I national tourney in 1995 and lost to Oklahoma City University 107-75.
The Tiger women also face a tough opponent in Concordia University of Oregon, which comes into the tourney with a sparkling 28-3 record. The Cavaliers are having a banner season and were the Cascade Conference’s regular season and tournament champions. CU is one of four #3 seeds in the 32-team bracket, while Iowa Wesleyan is a #6 seed.
Concordia enters the tourney ranked 10th nationally and its turnaround from last season is among the best in the country. Last year the Cavaliers finished 15-16, and just two years ago the team had a 9-22 record in Head Coach Aaron Christian’s first season.
Like IWC, Concordia relies on a balanced attack on offense, as both teams have four players scoring in double figures and neither has a player averaging more than 12.7 points per game. The Cavaliers shoot the ball at a 44.8% clip, ninth best in the country, and are outscoring opponents by an average of 16.9 points per game.
Both teams are strong defensively, as Wesleyan and Concordia are both among the top 20 nationally in field goal percentage defense. Size-wise, the Tigers match up pretty well with the Cavaliers with one slight exception. Concordia has a 6-4 center in Ann Snoderly, who averages 2.5 blocked shots per game, as well as 10.7 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Concordia will be making its first appearance ever in the national tournament, meaning the Tigers will have an edge on their opponent in tournament experience. IWC is making its third appearance ever in the national tourney and its third in four years. The Tigers are 1-2 in their two previous appearances, and in their last trip in 2007 defeated Menlo (Calif.) College 63-50 before losing in the Sweet 16 to Taylor (Ind.) University, 67-61. In their other appearance in 2006 the Tigers lost to Northwestern (Iowa) College 93-78.
IWC senior guard Rachel Mitchell (Des Moines, Iowa) will also be looking for a pair of milestones while playing in the national tourney. Mitchell needs six assists in Sioux City to tie the school record for career assists, held by Erin McFadden (2004-06) with 404. Mitchell also currently has 973 points score in her career and is 27 points shy of 1,000 for her career.
Iowa Wesleyan is one of just 11 schools to qualify both its men’s and women’s basketball teams for the NAIA Division II national tourneys. Of those 11 schools, IWC has the second-smallest of any of them, as Wesleyan’s enrollment of 850 is larger than only Sterling (Kan.) College’s enrollment of 653 students.
Both the men’s and women’s national tourneys will be contested March 11-17 at their respective sites. The Tiger men will open tournament play at 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday in Point Lookout, Mo., on the campus of the College of the Ozarks. The IWC women will open their tourney the next day at 1:45 p.m. at the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City. KILJ Radio FM 105.5 in Mount Pleasant will be carrying broadcasts of both games over the air and online at www.kilj.com. A video broadcast of the game is also available on a pay-per-view basis from the NAIA Web site at www.naia.org.
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; email@example.com e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics. NAIA tournament brackets and information are available on the official NAIA Web site at www.naia.org.