GPAC Semifinal Preview: Concordia hosts Doane with GPAC title spot on the line

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 24, 2022 in Men's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – Two rivals will meet on Saturday with a spot in the GPAC tournament championship game on the line. The second-seeded Concordia University Men’s Basketball team is getting set to welcome sixth-seeded Doane to Friedrich Arena for a 3 p.m. CT tipoff on Saturday. The Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals via an 83-70 home win over Morningside on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Doane went on the road and upset No. 3 seed Northwestern, 64-61. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad owns an overall record of 23-6.

GPAC Semifinals

Saturday, Feb. 26 vs. Doane (19-12, 11-9 GPAC)
--Live Webcast/Stats | 104.9 Max Country
--Admission: $10 for adults/senior citizens, $3 for K-12; only those with NAIA passes and GPAC student ID’s will be admitted free of charge.

By the numbers

·        Even when you think you have Concordia beat inside Friedrich Arena, you don’t. A week after the dramatic win at the buzzer over Briar Cliff, the Bulldogs made things easier on the ticker while controlling Wednesday’s GPAC quarterfinal clash with Morningside. Concordia went 15-for-33 (.455) from 3-point range and built a lead as large as 22 points. Three Bulldogs reached double figures in scoring, Carter Kent (17), Gage Smith (15) and Garrett Seagren (11), while Ryan Holt, Tristan Smith and AJ Watson contributed eight points apiece. Kent added six rebounds and six assists to his stat line. Reigning GPAC Player of the Week Gage Smith grabbed nine boards and dished out five assists. After having lost 12 straight series meetings to the Mustangs, Concordia has now won the past two matchups. The Bulldogs are also 14-0 at home this season and have won 18 consecutive home games dating back to last season.

·        The coaches who vote in the official NAIA poll have made the co-GPAC regular season champion Bulldogs earn it. They finally moved back into the NAIA top 25 on Wednesday, landing at No. 23. The perception seems to be that the league is down because last season’s top teams, Morningside and Jamestown, fell back a bit in the GPAC standings. The computers have liked Concordia more than the humans. Currently, the Bulldogs are ranked 15th in the NAIA by Massey Ratings and appear at No. 16 in the official NAIA RPI. There are 234 teams included in NAIA men’s basketball. According to the RPI, Concordia owns top 100 wins over No. 22 Briar Cliff, No. 23 Jamestown (two), No. 34 Dordt (two), No. 38 Northwestern, No. 58 Morningside (two), No. 60 Peru State, No. 60 Benedictine (Kan.), No. 64 Ottawa (Kan.), No. 64 Rochester (Mich.), No. 66 Doane, No. 89 Midland (two) and No. 99 Dakota Wesleyan (two).

·        In the win over Briar Cliff, Kent totaled 18 points in addition to the pass that had everyone buzzing. That outing pushed Kent to No. 8 on the program’s all-time scoring list as he surpassed former teammate Tanner Shuck (1,579). Then on Wednesday, Kent moved up another rung, leapfrogging Matt List (1,608) for seventh place in school history. With 1,624 career points, the Crete High School product has a shot at finishing in the top five all-time. Within range are No. 6 Rick Dietze (1,625) and No. 5 Devin Smith (1,659). Also last week, Kent was named a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree for the third-straight year. Kent is the only player in program history with at least 1,600 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals. In addition, Justin Wiersema now sports all-time program ranks of ninth in assists (291), 19th in rebounds (463) and tied for 20th in scoring (1,221).

·        Not since the 1995-95 season had the program won a conference regular season title. Limback was a player on the ’95-96 squad that then Head Coach Grant Schmidt guided to an 11-1 mark within the Nebraska-Iowa Athletic Conference. In addition to ending that drought, the 2021-22 Bulldogs have broken the program record for conference wins in a single season with 15. The previous standard of 14 was held by the 2004-05 and 2020-21 squads. In terms of postseason success, the program has celebrated GPAC tournament titles in 2003, 2005 and 2020. The most recent Concordia team to sweep conference regular season and postseason championships in the same year was the 1994-95 squad that went 30-4 overall.

·        A GPAC tournament title would allow the Bulldogs to leave no doubt as to who deserves the title of the league’s top dog. In the process of winning the GPAC tournament title, the 2020 team ended the program’s postseason dry spell, which saw it go from the 2009-10 through the 2018-19 seasons without winning a conference tournament game. The conference tournament run in 2020 included wins over Northwestern (home), 74-63, Hastings (home), 71-61, and Dakota Wesleyan (away), 68-66. Then last season, Concordia saw its campaign end with a 70-58 GPAC quarterfinal defeat at Dakota Wesleyan. Going back farther, the Bulldogs won GPAC tournament title games over Sioux Falls in 2005 and over Dordt in 2003.

The opponent
Doane is coming in hot having won three in a row and four of its last five. That stretch includes wins over each of the teams seeded one through three in the GPAC tournament. Saturday’s matchup will be a contrast of styles. Concordia would like to make it a track meet, while Doane will try to make it a slog once again. In the two regular season matchups, the Bulldogs won, 60-50, in Seward before the Tigers triumphed, 54-50, in Crete. Concordia’s scoring outputs against Doane were two of its three lowest all season. Head Coach Ian McKeithen’s squad has leaned upon a standout trio in Josiah Gardiner (15.3 ppg / 5.9 rpg), Anthony Laravie (more than 2,000 career points scored) and Alec Oberhauser (13.0 ppg / 8.7 rpg). Doane’s national tournament hopes could rest on the outcome on Saturday. The Tigers were placed ninth in the North-Central region in the most recent ARC rankings.

GPAC tournament pairings

Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 23
(8) Dakota Wesleyan def. (1) Briar Cliff, 85-77
(5) Jamestown def. (4) Dordt, 83-59
(6) Doane def. (3) Northwestern, 64-61
(2) Concordia def. (7) Morningside, 83-70

Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 26
(8) Dakota Wesleyan at (5) Jamestown, 3 p.m.
(6) Doane at (2) Concordia, 3 p.m.

Championship – Tuesday, March 1
Highest seed hosts, 7 p.m.