GPAC play to open against league's preseason favorites

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 13, 2023 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – On paper, Concordia University Men’s Basketball will start the conference season by playing the league’s top two teams. Coming off a 74-61 road win over Benedictine College (Kan.), the Bulldogs are readying to host No. 19 Morningside on Wednesday before traveling to play at No. 18 Northwestern on Saturday. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad sits at 3-0 with three nonconference wins that have each come by double digit margins. This week offers a chance for more national respect with Concordia having failed to receive votes in either of the first two 2023-24 NAIA coaches’ polls.

This Week

Wednesday, Nov. 15 vs. No. 19 Morningside (2-1, 0-0 GPAC), 7:45 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)

Saturday, Nov. 18 at No. 18 Northwestern (4-0, 0-0 GPAC), 6:45 p.m.
--Max Country | Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Bultman Center (Orange City, Iowa)

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By the numbers

·        It wasn’t a pretty first half, and the Bulldogs have to overcome 20 turnovers in their first road test of the season. Concordia managed to win while holding Benedictine to 35.8 percent (24-for-67) shooting from the floor. Three Bulldogs reached double figures in scoring: Noah Schutte (16), Tristan Smith (15) and Tyler Harre (12). Smith recorded a double-double while pulling in 14 rebounds and Schutte finished one rebound shy of a double-double. The freshman Harre made a major impact off the bench in draining 4-of-6 tries from 3-point range. Concordia persevered through some offensive struggles with superior defense and rebounding (50-34 advantage). The Ravens (Heart of America Athletic Conference) slipped to 1-2 this season after going 12-17 in 2022-23.

·        As part of the 3-0 start, the Bulldogs have been overall dominant with an average score of 88.3 to 69.3. Concordia has posted shooting percentages of 48.6 percent from the floor, 35.8 percent from 3-point range and 72.4 percent from the foul line. Its opponents have shot 38.1 percent from the field, 26.2 percent from 3-point range and 57.4 percent from the foul line. In addition to defeating Benedictine, the Bulldogs have triumphed over Mayville State University (N.D.), 88-73, and then 19th-ranked William Penn University (Iowa), 103-74. Both Mayville State and William Penn were 2023 national qualifiers.

·        The win at Benedictine marked a milestone for Ben Limback, who earned the 300th victory of his head coaching career. The Concordia alum and former conference player of the year has won 185 games over 10-plus seasons with the Bulldogs. He also won 115 games during a nine-year tenure leading the Concordia University Ann Arbor program. The totals from the two Concordias add up to 300 wins for Limback, the second winningest coach in the history of Bulldog Men’s Basketball. Limback has continued the program’s stability after Grant Schmidt won 445 games over 23 seasons from 1989 to 2012. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, Limback has led the Bulldogs to a combined three GPAC championships and three national tournament appearances.

·        A native of Laurel, Neb., Schutte entered this season as both a GPAC Player of the Year and First Team All-America candidate. Now in year four as a Bulldog, Schutte enjoyed a terrific 2022-23 season that saw him average 20.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while posting impressive shooting percentages across the board. He’ll be remembered for the 38-point, 18-rebound performance in the 2023 GPAC quarterfinals at Northwestern. Schutte poured in a school record nine 3-point field goals in that road victory. Over 86 career collegiate games, Schutte has totaled 1,224 points and 482 rebounds. He has climbed to No. 22 on the program’s all-time scoring list having passed Ben Limback (1,158), Robby Thomas (1,170), Eli Ziegler (1,194), Brent Cumber (1,210) and Josh Dahlke (1,221) already this season. Schutte burst onto the scene in his sophomore campaign when he was named to the NAIA National Championship All-Tournament Team.

·        Limback has rolled out the same starting five for each of the first three games. It has included a backcourt of senior Joel Baker and junior Bradley Bennett and a frontcourt of freshman Lukas Helms, Schutte and Smith. A starter for 11 games last season, sophomore guard Jaxon Weyand has been sidelined so far by injury. There are five Bulldogs who have averaged more than 20 minutes per game through the first three games: Schutte (30.7), Bennett (27.0), Helms (25.0), Smith (25.0) and Brooks Kissinger (21.7). The latter is a freshman out of Ashland, Neb. Kissinger is averaging 12.0 points per game.

·        Four GPAC teams received mention in the NAIA coaches’ poll released last week: No. 18 Northwestern, No. 19 Morningside, No. 23 Dordt and Briar Cliff (receiving votes). There are four GPAC squads that remain unblemished in the early going of the season: Briar Cliff (5-0), Northwestern (4-0), Concordia (3-0) and Dakota Wesleyan (3-0).

The opponents

Morningside went 24-8 overall last season and shared the GPAC regular season title with Jamestown. The Mustangs advanced to the national round of 16 and ventured to Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. Now in year three as head coach, Trent Miller was named the 2022-23 GPAC Coach of the Year. So far this season, Morningside has grabbed wins over Waldorf University (Iowa), 84-66, and Bethany College (Kan.), 72-52, while falling on the road to Kansas Wesleyan University, 84-73. The Mustangs have returned 2022-23 All-GPAC honorees Ely Doble (first team), Joey Skoff (first team), Aidan Vanderloo (second team) and Jack Dotzler (honorable mention). The Mustangs will be attempting to reach the national tournament for the 20th time in program history.

Northwestern placed fourth in the GPAC last season and qualified for the national tournament (20-10 overall record). The Red Raiders achieved that success despite All-American big man Alex Van Kalsbeek being limited to four games played due to injury. The transfer addition of Dillon Carlson (19.8 ppg in 2022-23) helped the lesson the blow. Van Kalsbeek returns this season and is flanked by 2022-23 All-GPAC selections in Carlson (first team) and Craig Sterk (first team). Naturally, the expectations are high for Head Coach Kris Korver’s squad. The team’s four wins to begin this season have come over Indiana East, 75-72, Oakland City, 72-66, Viterbo University (Wis.), 78-46, and Bellevue University, 69-58. The Red Raiders are off in the middle of this week while sighting their sights on Concordia.

Next week

The Bulldogs will take the entire week of Thanksgiving off competition. The season will resume with a visit to Fremont, Neb., where Concordia will take on Midland on Nov. 29.