SEWARD, Neb. – After a two-year absence from the GPAC tournament, the Concordia University men’s basketball team returns to postseason action on Wednesday when it travels to play No. 5 Dakota Wesleyan (27-3, 17-3 GPAC) in the conference quarterfinals. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. from The Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. The Tigers are unbeaten (15-0) at home while Concordia owns a mark of 11-6 away from Walz Arena.
The winner will advance to play either third-seeded Midland (23-7, 15-5 GPAC) or sixth-seeded Dordt (18-12, 9-11 GPAC) on Saturday in the conference semifinals. Wednesday’s game can be seen live Dakota Wesleyan’s Stretch Internet portal.
The co-GPAC regular-season champion Tigers have won each of the past six meetings with the Bulldogs. This year’s matchups have been decided by scores of 91-78 in Mitchell on Dec. 19 and 92-83 in Seward on Feb. 7. In the most recent meeting, Dakota Wesleyan overcame a 23-point, eight-rebound performance from Chandler Folkerts by knocking down 12 3-point field goals.
Second-year head coach Ben Limback will be coaching in the GPAC tournament for the first time. In the first five years of the GPAC tournament, then head coach Grant Schmidt guided the program to three conference championship game appearances. The Bulldogs won GPAC tournament titles in 2003 and 2005 – Concordia’s most recent appearance in the championship contest. The Bulldogs’ all-time record at the GPAC tournament is 14-10.
Meanwhile, Dakota Wesleyan is making its third-consecutive appearance in the conference tournament. In last year’s GPAC bracket, the Tigers upset eventual national runner up Midland, 83-80, in the quarterfinals. Head coach Matt Wilber’s squad ended the season with a 108-106 overtime loss at then No. 15 Morningside in the semifinals.
Folkerts and company hope to continue their recent run of solid play on the road. The Bulldogs are 6-4 in GPAC road games and possessed a three-game conference road win streak before last week’s 90-84 loss at No. 7 Morningside. Concordia has knocked off two ranked teams away from home – No. 3 Northwood University and No. 12 Midland.
Since back-to-back losses to ranked foes near the end of January, Dakota Wesleyan has rebounded with six-straight wins to end the regular season. One of the nation’s most efficient offensive squads, among all NAIA Division II teams, the Tigers rank first in assists per game (21.4), first in field goal percentage (.522), first in assist/turnover ratio (2.37), second in free throw percentage (.779) and fourth in points per game (87.9).
On the other hand, Concordia has shot well of late in its own right. Over the past five games, the Bulldogs have shot 52.3 percent (139-for-266) from the field and 46.4 percent (52-for-112) from beyond the arc. Concordia has moved up to 13th among all NAIA Division II teams in 3-point field goal percentage (.396).
Concordia (16-14, 9-11 GPAC)
OFF: 78.0 ppg
DEF: 76.7 ppg
Scoring leader: Chandler Folkerts – 15.6 ppg
Rebound leader: Chandler Folkerts – 7.5 rpg
Assists leader: Joel Haywood – 3.80 apg
Steals leader: Chandler Folkerts – 1.33 spg
Blocks leader: Robby Thomas – 2.50 bpg
Dakota Wesleyan (27-3, 17-3 GPAC)
OFF: 87.9 ppg
DEF: 69.3 ppg
Scoring leader: Jalen Voss – 20.5 ppg
Rebound leader: Luke Bamberg – 6.5 rpg
Assists leader: Trae Bergh – 3.83 apg
Steals leader: Trae Bergh – 1.37 spg
Blocks leader: Jalen Voss – 1.04 bpg