2024 GPAC MBB Semifinal Preview: Concordia at Hastings

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 29, 2024 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – The wild ride continues into the GPAC semifinal round for the 20th-ranked Concordia University Men’s Basketball team. The Bulldogs pulled out another nail-biter at home while holding off Dordt, 87-83, in the GPAC quarterfinals on Wednesday. For the third-straight year, Head Coach Ben Limback has led the program to at least the semifinals of the GPAC tournament. Concordia (23-6, 15-5 GPAC) now prepares for another rivalry clash with Hastings. The two sides will go head-to-head at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday with a spot in the conference championship game on the line.

Up Next

GPAC Semifinals – Saturday, March 2 at Hastings (21-8, 15-5 GPAC), 3 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Lynn Farrell Arena (Hastings, Neb.)
--NOTE: Max Country will be in Seward to cover the Concordia Women’s Basketball semifinal game.

GPAC Championship game will be played on Tuesday, March 5.

--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. In the quarterfinal round of the tournament played on Wednesday, each of the top seeds held serve at home, meaning the semifinals will feature No. 4 Morningside at No. 1 Northwestern and No. 3 Concordia at No. 1 Hastings. All four teams are likely headed to the national tournament no matter the results on Saturday.

·        It would have been difficult to script what has occurred over the past week and a half at home for the Bulldogs, who have had their fans reaching for heart medication. During the final week of the regular season, Concordia found ways to outlast both Hastings, 69-67, and Midland, 90-84, in overtime victories that allowed it to share the GPAC regular season title. Then on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs waited until the final seconds to put away Dordt. An emphatic tip slam by Tristan Smith proved to be the critical basket down the stretch. Smith (24 points and 12 rebounds) and Noah Schutte (25 points and 12 rebounds) posted similar stat lines while helping ensure Concordia survived and advanced. In addition, freshmen Brooks Kissinger (14) and Hayden Frank (10) also reached double figures. The Bulldogs won two of three meetings this season with the Defenders (the home team won in all instances).

·        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.

·        The Laurel, Neb., native Schutte has been on a tear over the past few home games. In the two overtime wins to close the regular season, 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 1,761 points and 711 rebounds in 112 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. In the NAIA coaches’ poll unveiled on Wednesday, Concordia landed at No. 20, a one-spot improvement from the previous poll put out on Feb. 14.

·        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 12 of its last 13 games with 10 of those contests ending in single-digit separation.

Concordia Projected Starting Five
G – Brad Bennett, 6-1 (10.7)
G – Jaxon Stueve, 6-4 (6.3)
F – Lukas Helms, 6-6 (6.2)
F – Noah Schutte, 6-4 (20.8)
F – Tristan Smith, 6-5 (18.1)

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

The opponent

Hastings and Concordia will be extremely familiar with one another having just battled last week inside Friedrich Arena. The Broncos will play physical man-to-man defense and have limited their opponents to an average of 70.5 points per game and 46.2 percent shooting. The star of the show is point guard Reggie Thomas, who leads the GPAC in scoring at 24.3 points per game. In Wednesday’s win over Briar Cliff, Thomas broke the program’s single season scoring record while moving past 700 points for the 2023-24 campaign. Thomas teams up in the backcourt with Grady Corrigan and has the support of big man Danilo Matovic in the paint. Hastings earned some degree of hard-earned respect in the latest NAIA coaches’ poll as it received votes. In sharing the GPAC regular season title, the Broncos celebrated their first conference championship since 1991. Head Coach Todd Raridon has quickly succeeded in bringing the program back to prominence. Hastings is poised to make its first national tournament appearance since 2010.

Hastings Projected Starting Five
G – Grady Corrigan, 6-1 (8.6)
G – Nolan Sughroue, 5-11 (3.8)
G – Reggie Thomas, 6-1 (24.3)
F – Danilo Matovic, 6-8 (9.6)
F – Tyrique McMurrin, 6-5 (11.1)

Head Coach: Todd Raridon (2nd season at Hastings)

2024 GPAC Men’s Basketball Tournament

Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 28
(1) Northwestern def. (8) Dakota Wesleyan, 78-65
(4) Morningside def. (5) Jamestown, 89-72
(3) Concordia def. (6) Dordt, 87-83
(2) Hastings def. (7) Briar Cliff, 76-61

Semifinals – Saturday, March 2
(4) Morningside at (1) Northwestern, 3 p.m.
(3) Concordia at (2) Hastings, 3 p.m.

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