SEWARD, Neb. – The 38th national tournament game in the history of the Concordia University women’s basketball program is set to tip off at 12 p.m. CT on Wednesday. One of four No. 1 seeds, the overall second-ranked Bulldogs (31-2) will go up against eighth-seeded Bryan College (Tenn.) (18-14) in a first-round matchup that will be staged at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
(1) Concordia (31-2) vs. (8) Bryan (18-14)
When: Wednesday, March 8 | 12 p.m. CT
Where: Tyson Events Center | Sioux City, Iowa
Watch: NAIA Network (fee required)
Listen: 104.9 Max Country (Tyler Cavalli)
Tickets: $14 daily; $60 all-tournament pass; more info HERE
Champions of the GPAC regular-season and postseason, head coach Drew Olson’s 11th Concordia team is stating its case as one of the best in school history. At 31-2 overall, the 2016-17 Bulldogs have equaled the 2004-05 squad (31-5) for the fourth most victories in a single season in program annals. Each of the first four Concordia teams to record 30 wins reached at least the national semifinals.
In order to make a similar run this March, the Bulldogs will first have to get past Bryan, champion of the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament. At least in terms of rankings, the Lions have yet to play the type of elite team they will face on Wednesday. They have played three contests against nationally-ranked teams (Nos. 22, 23 and 25) and have gone 2-1 in those matchups. In the AAC semifinals, sixth-year head coach Jason Smith’s squad upset No. 25 Reinhardt University (Ga.) as part of its late season run.
The Lions have gone 1-5 in their previous five national tournament appearances. They also met the Bulldogs in the first round of the 2015 national championships. Concordia jumped out to a 26-5 lead and cruised to a 76-35 win on its way to a national title game appearance. Bryan went just 10-for-58 (.172) from the floor and committed 23 turnovers.
The ability to force and then feed off turnovers has been a staple for Olson’s best teams. The Bulldogs’ patented full-court press has helped cause opponents to average 26.7 turnovers per game.
“It’s definitely new and different and I don’t think teams can really simulate that or practice that to prepare for it,” Olson said. “I think it gives us a little bit of an advantage. When you get to the national tournament, by the time you’re in that third round you’re going up against a really good team and they’ve probably seen you play there a couple times. You just need to play your best basketball. That’s what matters the most.”
Olson isn’t afraid to go all the way to the end of the bench, but the headlining performers are first team all-conference selections Mary Janovich, Philly Lammers and Quinn Wragge. Janovich garnered GPAC defensive player of the year honors and Lammers was named the conference’s freshman of the year.
The Bulldogs possess the coaching, the talent, the depth, the senior leadership and the national tournament experience to make a deep run. They also seem to have the right chemistry. It’s been a necessity for a team with no players averaging more than 22.4 minutes per game.
Said Wragge following the GPAC tournament championship game overtime win over Dakota Wesleyan, “This is why we play. That was our goal at the beginning of the season and we accomplished it. There’s no one else I’d rather do it with than these girls.”
Wednesday’s winner will advance to the second round and play either fourth-seeded IU Northwest (Ind.) (25-6) or fifth-seeded Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) (24-6) at 10:15 a.m. on Friday. Concordia is the top seed in the Liston Bracket.
G – Shelby Quinn: 6.6 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.0 spg, .352 fg%, .763 ft%
G – Dani Andersen: 9.0 ppg, 1.6 spg, 1.2 rpg, .379 fg%, .353 3-pt fg%
G – Mary Janovich: 11.2 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2.6 rpg, 2.4 spg, .525 fg%, .444 3-pt fg%
F – Quinn Wragge: 11.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.0 spg, .565 fg%, .736 ft%
F – Philly Lammers: 13.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.1 spg, 1.2 bpg, .570 fg%, .788 ft%
G – Brandi Whitted: 2.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, .268 fg%, .346 3-pt fg%
G – Erisha Talley: 8.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.0 spg, .415 fg%, .750 ft%
G – Amber Levi: 16.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 spg, .377 fg%, .368 3-pt fg%
F – Tonesha Allison: 5.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.7 spg, .378 fg%, .621 ft%
C – Megan Billingsby: 12.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, .495 fg%, .641 ft%