GPAC Champs to stay local, assigned to Omaha for opening round

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 3, 2022 in Men's Basketball

2022 Concordia MBB National Tournament Press Guide

Tournament Bracket

SEWARD, Neb. – A dream season for Concordia University Men’s Basketball will carry on into the opening round of the 2022 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship. The Bulldogs won’t have to go far. As a No. 5 seed in the 64-team bracket, they will be headed to Sokol Arena in Omaha, Neb., to take on 12th-seeded Indiana University Northwest on March 11. The two other teams in the four-team pod are No. 4 Marian University (Ind.) and No. 13 Freed-Hardeman University (Tenn.). The Concordia/Indiana Northwest winner will play the Marian/Freed-Hardeman winner on March 12.

Head Coach Ben Limback will lead the program to its second national tournament appearance in the past three seasons. It will be the 11th national tournament trip in program history. Two years ago, Concordia played the final NAIA Division II national tournament game ever in what amounted to an 87-84 loss to Ottawa University (Kan.) just before the COVID-19 shutdown.

At the time of release, tipoff times were yet to be announced. The 16 winners from each of the four-team pods will advance to play at the final site, Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

What makes this team special …

·        Coach Limback on the senior class: “This group really took everything in stride. Carter was the GPAC freshman of the year, but all those guys were instrumental in raising the level of the program. This year they wanted to do really, really big things. That first year we were just trying to get in the conference tournament. This year we want to have a chance to win the league. There’s a reason why they’re in this position. They bought in for four years. The culture has been established because of their level of commitment. I already know the banquet and the last game is going to be a tough deal for me as a head coach … They’re all ready to launch and make that next step, whether it’s starting a real estate business or going to med school. They’re all ready to make an impact. It’s going to be bittersweet. They have more to their lives than just basketball. I’m proud to be able to coach them.”

·        Carter Kent: “I am most proud of this team because every guy in the room is a great person. They are great basketball players and very talented, but I am most proud of how we get along as a team and how we always enjoy being around each other. Anywhere that we are at is a great time just because the guys are so much fun to be around.”

·        Justin Wiersema: “To be a part of this team has meant the world to me these last four years. We started out at the bottom of the GPAC and just believed in each other and eventually started to see results that gave us confidence to do the things we did and eventually get here. Ultimately, it feels pretty satisfying to develop like we have and come out our senior year and really try to prove something.”

·        Gage Smith: “I'm proud to be part of a group of guys that have had to fight through a lot of adversity over the years to become the successful team we are today. Our group of guys have that ‘no quit’ mentality and I'm proud of our senior class always showing up for each other.”

·        Klay Uher: “I'm most proud of our persistence and ability to get through things together. We came in our freshman year and didn't have the season any of us wanted to have. We talked about being first in the conference and the national tournament a lot, but at that time it wasn't feasible. Through countless workouts, shooting sessions and practices over the years, we have worked hard enough to put ourselves in a position to make those things come to fruition.”

National Tournament Facts

·        The 2022 trip to nationals will mark the 11th all-time appearance on the national stage for the program. Head Coach Ben Limback has now led the Bulldogs to two national tournament appearances, including the national tourney trip in 2020. In the first nine appearances, all presided over by former head coach Grant Schmidt, the Bulldogs went a combined 11-9. Limback played for the national qualifying teams of 1996, 1997 and 1998.

·        Concordia has won its first-round game at the national tournament five times. Two teams in program history have reached at least the semifinals: the 1991-92 squad and the 2004-05 team (national runner up). The 1994-95 and 2002-03 squads advanced to the national quarterfinals.

·        The 2004-05 team set a still-intact school record with 32 wins that season. On the way to reaching the national title game, the ’04-5 group defeated Trinity Christian (Ill.), Flagler (Fla.), Cornerstone (Mich.) and Cedarville (Ohio) in Point Lookout, Mo. The Bulldogs then fell at the hands of Walsh (Ohio) in the program’s lone national title game appearance.

·        Concordia’s Marcus Wernke was the NAIA Division II national tournament record holder for most blocked shots in a game (nine) and most blocked shots in a single tournament (23). Both of those feats were accomplished in 2005. Jason Jisa was also honored with the Hustle Award at the ’05 tourney. NAIA Division II came to an end with a fusion of the two divisions following the 2019-20 season.

·        Schmidt led the Bulldogs to their first-ever national tournament appearance in 1991. At that time, the NAIA was still just one division for basketball. Four members of the 1990-91 squad have been inducted into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame: Matt List, John Puelz, Devin Smith and Mike Works. The latter three were also members of the 1991-92 squad that broke through with the program’s first-ever national tournament win.

·        On March 12, 2020, the Bulldogs played in the final NAIA Division II men’s basketball game ever. The remainder of the tournament following Concordia’s 87-84 loss to Ottawa (Kan.) was shut down due to COVID-19. Six Bulldogs on the current roster saw action in that national tournament game: Ryan Holt, Carter Kent, Sam Scarpelli, Gage Smith, AJ Watson and Justin Wiersema. The contest took place at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.