2024 GPAC MBB Quarterfinal Preview: Concordia vs. Dordt

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 26, 2024 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – It’s time for postseason hoops. The Concordia University Men’s Basketball team took fans on a wild ride in the final week of the regular season, winning twice in overtime inside Friedrich Arena. Those victories came against in-state rivals Hastings, 69-67, and Midland, 90-84. Those outings were must-win games in terms of the race for a GPAC championship. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad wound up in a three-way tie for first place along with Hastings and Northwestern. All three teams went 15-5 in league play. After tiebreakers were enacted, the Bulldogs drew the No. 3 seed for the conference tournament and will host sixth-seeded Dordt in the GPAC quarterfinals on Wednesday.

This Week

GPAC Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 28 vs. Dordt (20-8, 13-7 GPAC), 7 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

GPAC Semifinals – Saturday, March 2 (if Concordia wins on Wednesday)

--Admission: $10 for adults; $3 for students (K-College); GPAC students with ID are admitted free; season passed are not allowed (NAIA issued passes are allowed).

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By the numbers

·        Once tiebreakers were put in place, the top three seeds for the GPAC tournament emerged as: No. 1 Northwestern, No. 2 Hastings and No. 3 Concordia. As the top seed, the Red Raiders are locked in as one of the GPAC’s two automatic berths into the national tournament. The second auto bid will go to the conference tournament champion – or the tournament runner up should Northwestern win it. The rest of the GPAC tournament field includes No. 4 Morningside, No. 5 Jamestown, No. 6 Dordt, No. 7 Briar Cliff and No. 8 Dakota Wesleyan. Three GPAC squads saw their seasons end last week: Midland, Doane and Mount Marty. Dordt is the defending GPAC tournament champion. The Defenders won at Jamestown, 86-81, in last year's GPAC championship game.

·        Somehow, some way, the Bulldogs got it done during the final week of the regular season. There were several moments in the clash with Hastings on Feb. 21 when it appeared that the visitors were about to claim victory. Concordia trailed 40-24 early in the second half, still faced a double-digit deficit (53-43) with fewer than six-and-a-half minutes remaining and managed to force overtime despite being down three (62-59) with 3.8 seconds left on the clock. Noah Schutte collected a hard-earned 19 points and a career high 18 rebounds and Brooks Kissinger starred off the bench with 14 points. The two meetings this season with the Broncos were decided by a combined margin of three points. Three days later, the Bulldogs hosted Midland in what looked like a mismatch on paper. However, the Warriors got 32 points from Derek Merwick and made it a nail-biter all the way through. Eventually, Concordia got hot from 3-point range in overtime and followed Schutte’s lead. The Laurel, Neb., native equaled a season high with 34 points (15-for-18 from the foul line) to go along with 10 rebounds. The Bulldogs went 11-1 at home during the regular season.

·        Limback’s crew will attempt to add to the program’s four all-time GPAC tournament championships. Those titles occurred in 2003, 2005, 2020 and 2022. During the era of the Nebraska-Iowa Athletic Conference, Concordia also won conference tournaments in 1995, 1997 and 1998. Under Limback, the Bulldogs celebrated the 2020 GPAC tournament title when they edged Dakota Wesleyan, 68-66, in the Corn Palace. Two years later, Concordia had the privilege of hosting the championship game and knocked off Jamestown, 77-70. A year ago, the Bulldogs picked up a critical 90-77 GPAC quarterfinal win at Northwestern before losing at Jamestown in the semifinals.

·        Schutte was as beastly as ever last week. In the two overtime wins, Schutte totaled a combined 53 points and 28 rebounds while making 24-of-29 free throws. He is a lock for another First Team All-GPAC award and should also see his name on the NAIA All-America list at the conclusion of this season. As part of last week’s action, Schutte passed former teammate Carter Kent (1,699 career points) for No. 5 on the program’s all-time scoring list. Schutte has amassed 1,736 points and 699 rebounds in 111 career collegiate games. The top four scorers in school history are Jon Ziegler (2,099), Tom Raabe (2,016), Chandler Folkerts (1,963) and John Puelz (1,955).

·        No matter the results in the conference tournament, Concordia is a virtual lock as qualifier for the NAIA’s 64-team national tournament bracket. In the latest official analytics released by the NAIA, the Bulldogs appeared at No. 2 in the North-Central ARC rankings and landed at No. 17 in the RPI while having played the No. 72 strength of schedule. The SOS took a bit of a hit after CIT and does not give the Bulldogs proper credit for having played a quality NCAA Division II opponent. For instance, Massey Ratings judges Concordia to have played the NAIA’s 22nd toughest schedule. Either way, the Bulldogs are poised to appear at the national tournament for the 13th time in program history.

·        If any postseason games happen to go to overtime, Concordia will be in its comfort zone. The Bulldogs are 4-0 in overtime games having won OT contests over Briar Cliff, No. 19 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), Hastings and Midland. The Bulldogs won seven GPAC games by double-digit margins, but the games seemed to tighten during the stretch run of the season. Concordia has won 11 of its last 12 games with nine of those contests ending in single-digit separation.

Concordia Projected Starting Five
G – Brad Bennett, 6-1 (10.9)
G – Jaxon Stueve, 6-4 (6.5)
F – Lukas Helms, 6-6 (6.3)
F – Noah Schutte, 6-4 (20.7)
F – Tristan Smith, 6-5 (17.9)

Head Coach: Ben Limback (11th season at CUNE)

The opponent

Dordt won the GPAC tournament title last season on its way to qualifying for the national tournament for the second year in a row under Head Coach Brian Van Haaften. The Defenders employ an entertaining up-tempo style that has lent itself to them averaging a GPAC leading 88.5 points per game. Four of the team’s five starters average at least 11.3 points per game led by the 21.2 average of 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Lucas Lorenzen. A three-game skid in February resulted in Dordt having to go on the road in GPAC tournament play. However, the Defenders righted the ship by ending Concordia’s nine-game win streak with a 79-73 home victory on Feb. 17. The Bulldogs got the upper hand, 89-84, in this season’s first matchup held in Seward. If Dordt does not repeat as GPAC tournament champion, it stands a strong chance of earning an at-large berth to nationals. The Defenders boast an NAIA RPI of 33rd and a strength of schedule of 45th.

Dordt Projected Starting Five
G – Bryce Coppock, 5-11 (17.7)
G – Lucas Lorenzen, 6-4 (21.2)
G – Connor Millikan, 6-0 (12.6)
G – Luke Rankin, 5-10 (11.3)
F – Ben Fairclough, 6-8 (7.3)

Head Coach: Brian Van Haaften (6th season at Dordt)

2024 GPAC Men’s Basketball Tournament

Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 28
(8) Dakota Wesleyan at (1) Northwestern, 8 p.m.
(5) Jamestown at (4) Morningside, 7 p.m.
(6) Dordt at (3) Concordia, 8 p.m.
(7) Briar Cliff at (2) Hastings, 7 p.m.

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

Championship – Tuesday, March 5
Highest seed hosts, time TBA