SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s basketball team knows its season will extend into next week’s GPAC tournament no matter what. Now the hope is for the Bulldogs to earn a top four seed and a home game in the conference quarterfinals. In order for that to happen, Concordia must win twice on the road this week. Head coach Ben Limback’s squad will be at Midland on Wednesday before making the long trek to Jamestown for Saturday’s regular-season finale.
A return home appeared to be the right tonic for the Bulldogs (19-9, 10-8 GPAC), who had come up empty in three-straight road games entering last week. Concordia got back on track by defeating Hastings, 83-77, and 18th-ranked Mount Marty, 98-74, to improve to 10-3 at home this season. Limback’s crew is now tied for fifth in the conference, trailing Morningside (17-2), Dakota Wesleyan (12-6), Northwestern (12-6) and Dordt (12-7). The Bulldogs would be in good shape with any potential tiebreaker scenario involving Northwestern, a team that Concordia beat twice this season.
The Bulldogs last hosted a GPAC tournament game in 2011. Their most recent conference postseason victory came in 2009. It would be a feather in the cap of the senior class if it could help end those droughts. The likes of seniors Tanner Shuck and Brevin Sloup have helped the program to a combined record of 72-48 with two CIT championships since the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign. Shuck and Sloup were key contributors to the ’16-17 squad that went 21-10 overall and now have a shot at leading Concordia to another 20-win campaign. Shuck (1,476) and Sloup (1,145) are both members of the program’s 1,000-point club.
In terms of sheer volume of 3-point field goals, this current squad is about to become the most prolific in program history. Only four teams in school history have drained at least 300 3-point shots in a season: 1997-98 (321), 2019-20 (315), 2016-17 (309) and 1991-92 (304). The big three scorers of Shuck, Sloup and Carter Kent have combined for 190 made 3-point field goals. The Bulldogs are 16-5 this season when they make at least 10 treys. They currently rank seventh nationally with an average of 11.3 3-point field goals per game.
Midland is a few years removed from its most recent national tournament appearance in 2017. The Warriors will return home for their final two games in the regular season after four in a row on the road. During the road swing, Midland earned wins over Briar Cliff and Doane. At 5-13 in conference play, the Warriors are in must-win mode if they are to have a shot at reaching the postseason. Junior guard Laurence Merritt has taken over a starring role and leads the team with an average of 16.2 points per game. Concordia defeated Midland, 95-71, in Seward on Nov. 12.
Jamestown had won six of seven games prior to last week’s defeats that came at the hands of Northwestern and No. 1 Morningside. Jamestown has a potent offensive team that ranks in the top 12 nationally in 3-point field goal percentage (.406), field goal percentage (.500) and scoring offense (87.7). Three players for head coach Danny Neville’s squad average at least 15 points per game: Jack Talley (16.2), Terrell Alfred (15.2) and Isaiah Dobson (15.0). In Seward on Jan. 11, the Bulldogs topped the Jimmies, 86-74. Jamestown has clinched a GPAC tournament spot and will be on the road in the quarterfinals.
The GPAC tournament will get started next week. The dates for the conference playoffs are Feb. 26 for the quarterfinals, Feb. 29 for the semifinals and March 3 for the championship.
Concordia (19-9, 10-8 GPAC)
G – Brevin Sloup, Sr., 5-9 (15.5)
G – Justin Wiersema, So., 6-3 (9.6)
G – Carter Kent, So., 6-2 (13.1)
F – Tanner Shuck, Sr., 6-4 (12.6)
F – Chuol Biel, Sr., 6-8 (5.7)
Midland (9-16, 5-13 GPAC)
G – Laurence Merritt, Jr., 5-10 (16.2)
G – Jake Rueschhoff, Fr., 6-1 (7.6)
G – Bowen Sandquist, So., 6-3 (14.6)
F – Kylan Smallwood, Fr., 6-3 (10.4)
F – Samuel Mailloux, Fr., 6-6 (5.3)
Jamestown (18-10, 9-9 GPAC)
G – Terrell Alfred, Sr., 6-0 (15.2)
G – Isaiah Dobson, Sr., 6-2 (15.0)
G – Jack Frazier, Sr., 6-3 (4.8)
F – Jack Talley, Jr., 6-5 (16.2)
F – Brady Birch, Jr., 6-6 (11.3)