2023 GPAC MBB Quarterfinal Preview: Concordia at Northwestern

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 20, 2023 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – After hosting all three rounds of the GPAC tournament last season, the Concordia University Men’s Basketball program will have to get it done on the road this time. As the No. 5 seed, the Bulldogs will be headed to Orange City, Iowa, to play fourth-seeded Northwestern in the GPAC quarterfinals on Wednesday night. During the final week of the regular season, Concordia blew out Briar Cliff at home, 85-56, before surrendering a double-digit lead in a 75-72 loss at Dakota Wesleyan. Those results leave Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad at 17-11 overall (11-9 GPAC) heading into the postseason.

This Week

GPAC Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 22 at Northwestern (20-8, 13-7 GPAC), 6 p.m.
--Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country | Location: Bultman Center (Orange City, Iowa)

GPAC Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 25 (if Concordia wins on Wednesday)

By the numbers

·        The Bulldogs finished the regular season two games behind Northwestern for a possible chance to host a GPAC tournament quarterfinal game. The top four in the standings are Jamestown (15-5), Morningside (15-5), Dordt (14-6) and Northwestern (13-7). The Jimmies have earned one of the league’s two automatic berths to nationals by way of grabbing the No. 1 seed. The other auto bid will go to the GPAC tournament champion (or the No. 2 team in the regular season if Jamestown wins the tournament title). Unless Concordia can win the GPAC tournament, it will likely be sweating out the NAIA selection show on March 2. The Bulldogs are considered a bubble team in terms of the national tournament. They own an RPI of 55 and a strength of schedule rank of 51st.

·        It was a game of runs against Briar Cliff in what was likely the final home game of the 2022-23 season. In the first half, the Bulldogs mounted a 19-0 run that was then followed by a 21-2 spurt for the Chargers. The two sides were deadlocked at the half, 30-30, but that’s when Concordia got hot. Its 35-3 run left Briar Cliff in the dust. The Bulldogs shot 54.5 percent (36-for-66) overall and drained 12 treys. Gage Smith was the star of the show in amassing 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots. Meanwhile, Noah Schutte added 16 points and seven rebounds and two other Concordia players reached double figures: Brad Bennett (16) and Garrett Seagren (10). The Bulldogs earned a regular season sweep of the Chargers (14-13, 8-12 GPAC).

·        The loss at Dakota Wesleyan hurts Concordia’s at-large chances and felt like on that got away. The Bulldogs had led by 13 (51-38) when Schutte made a layup at the 14:21 mark of the second half. A 10-1 Tiger run that came soon after that made it a nail-biter down the stretch. DWU canned 7-of-8 free throw tries in the final 1:39 and kept Concordia from making the big shot. The Tigers were able to overcome a career high 36 points from Schutte, who went 13-for-25 from the floor and grabbed 13 rebounds. Jaxon Weyand turned in a career high of his own with 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting. There wasn’t much other offense for the Bulldogs, who shot 39.4 percent for the game. Kallan Herman led DWU (13-15, 9-11 GPAC) with 23 points.

·        Schutte’s 36 points surpassed his previous career high of 32 in the 81-74 win at Texas Wesleyan University on Dec. 28. The 36 points were also the most in a single game for any Concordia player since Chandler Folkerts totaled 37 in a win at Dakota Wesleyan on Feb. 12, 2017. Among GPAC players, Schutte ranks seventh in scoring (19.3), ninth in rebounding (6.7), ninth in field goal percentage (.547), ninth in free throw percentage (.779) and 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (.420). Without a doubt the team’s No. 1 scoring option, Schutte has piled up 539 total points this season, up from the 485 he recorded in 2021-22.

·        In the win over Briar Cliff, Gage Smith leapt Chandler Folkerts and moved to No. 2 on the program’s all-time rebound list. Smith’s rebound total now rests at 880, ranking him behind only Matt List (928). Folkerts grabbed 868 boards in his career. Gage also owns current program all-time rankings of 14th in assists (269) and 18th in scoring (1,327). The Elizabeth, Colo., native has played in 132 games since arriving with the start of the fall semester of 2018. Gage has played on two separate teams that won GPAC championships – the 2019-20 and 2021-22 editions.

·        Concordia enters the bracket as the defending GPAC tournament champion and winner of two of the past three GPAC postseason titles. Last year’s run through the GPAC tourney included victories over Morningside, 83-70, in the quarterfinals, Doane, 67-65, in the semifinals, and Jamestown, 77-70, in the championship game. Two years earlier, just before the COVID-19 shutdown, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs upset No. 11 Dakota Wesleyan, 68-66, in the 2020 GPAC tournament final. As a program, Concordia has won four GPAC tournament titles since the conference’s first season in 2000-01. Former head coach Grant Schmidt guided the Bulldogs to GPAC postseason crowns in 2003 and 2005.


The opponent

For the 17th time in Kris Korver’s 23 seasons as head coach, Northwestern has hit at least the 20-win mark. The Red Raiders appear to be in strong position to earn another national tournament bid with the help of a 4-1 record during the month of February. The Red Raiders were forced to recalibrate a bit early in the season when All-American big man Alex Van Kalsbeek went down with an injury. In helping fill the void from a scoring perspective, Dillon Carlson has become a star in his first season at Northwestern after transferring from NCAA Division II Drury University. He ranks third among GPAC players at 20.1 points per game. On the interior, Craig Sterk has contributed 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. The Red Raiders are always tough at home, where they are 11-1 this season. During the regular season, both Concordia-Northwestern matchups were lopsided as the Bulldogs won, 81-55, in Seward and the Red Raiders won, 79-65, in Orange City.

Probable starters

Concordia (17-11, 11-9 GPAC)
G – Brad Bennett (10.8)
G – Garrett Seagren (6.5)
G – Jaxon Weyand (4.9)
F – Noah Schutte (19.3)
F – Gage Smith (12.9)

Head Coach: Ben Limback (296-282, 19th season overall; 181-124, 10th season at CUNE)

Northwestern (20-8, 13-7 GPAC)
G – Dillon Carlson (20.1)
G – Grant DeMeulenaere (5.8)
G – Conner Geddes (8.1)
F – Matt Onken (12.8)
F – Craig Sterk (16.5)

Head Coach: Kris Korver (23rd season)

2023 GPAC Men’s Basketball Tournament

Quarterfinals – Tuesday, Feb. 21
(6) Dakota Wesleyan at (3) Dordt, 7:45 p.m.
(7) Briar Cliff at (2) Morningside, 7 p.m.

Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 22
(8) Hastings at (1) Jamestown, 6 p.m.
(5) Concordia at (4) Northwestern, 6 p.m.

Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 25
1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner, time TBA
2/7 winner vs. 3/6 winner, time TBA

Championship – Tuesday, Feb. 28
Highest remaining seed hosts, time TBA