Once again Grace College is hosting the National Christian College Athletic Association tournaments right here in our back yard. Once again both the men’s and women’s teams are participating in the tournament, leaving 14 spots open for other schools to come to Winona Lake for a weekend full of faith-based fun. And once again, you probably are not giving the NCCAA Championships the attention they deserve.
This is not just some local tournament with a bunch of local colleges that could not find a way into the NAIA tournament. No, this is a nationwide tournament being held in the heart of Kosciusko County and it demands your attention.
The athletes and coaches that come into town with these teams help do community service right here in our back yard. Sure, it makes sense for Grace student-athletes to do work in the local community, and sure, you appreciate that. But what about the players from Azusa Pacific? What connection the 14 players from a school in California have to Winona Lake, Indiana? Probably slim to none, yet they were out helping in our community this week.
In total, not counting our hometown men and women from Grace, there are 196 players and 54 coaches from 12 schools, hailing from seven states (California all the way to New York) that are calling Kosciusko County home for a few days this week and helping to make our community better.
I’ve heard one too many people complain about this tournament being made into such a big deal. It is a big deal, it is a chance to show off not just Grace College, but also the city of Warsaw and the county as a whole. No, it’s not March Madness, there is no bars having special viewing parties for the Point Loma v. Union game, but these athletes work just as hard and are wanting to cut down the nets as much as any other team in any other tournament. Plus, they are out working to make your community better.
Make sure to acknowledge the great work that Director of Athletics Chad Briscoe and the rest of the Grace College staff has done to bring this awesome event here and to make Warsaw the center of something special. With 24 games in four days I would highly suggest making it out to support the young men and women that have certainly earned the attention.
Last Week (3/6): 6-4
College Basketball 3/19
Grace College (17-15) v. Lee University (23-5), NCCAA Women’s Championship Round 1, 5:15 p.m.
The Scoop: Congratulations to the Lady Lancers on winning the first regional title in the program’s history. That’s a big accomplishment for Coach Scott Blum and the rest of the team and staff. Hopefully that wave of success can continue against the top seed in the women’s bracket, Lee University. The Flames come in as winners in 16 of their last 17 games. The only loss in that period was to Union in the NCCAA Mid-East Regional Final. Union sits on the other side of the bracket as the No. 2 seed.
Grace will have its hands full with the Flames. Senior Lancer guard, Juaneice “JJ” Jackson will without a doubt be the focus of the Lee defense. If Jackson is able to find her shot and get Grace going early, than this could be an upset in the making. I just feel this is too tall of a task for the Lancers to accomplish tonight.
The Pick: Lee 78, Grace 62.
Grace College (17-15) v. Colorado Christian (17-13), NCCAA Men’s Championship Round 1, 7:30 p.m.
The Scoop: I told you all that coach Kessler and the Lancers would pull the upset over Huntington in the Crossroads League tournament and that is exactly what they did! Unfortunately the dream run came to an end at the hands of Bethel in the CL final. But, that’s okay. Coach K and the boys are back and ready to let off some steam. Colorado Christian is good, but they are certainly beatable.
The Cougars have three players that average double digit scoring, Kyle Weaver (19.1 points per game), Avery Redmond (16.4) and Michael Brown (13.3). Brown is one of the Cougars top rebounders, but is not effective with offensive boards. All three players have the ability to shoot the three-ball, Weaver shoots 43-percent from beyond the arc. Grace has done well at controlling the opposing team’s offense this season and I expect nothing different tonight from the Lancers. Offensively the Lancers will need Greg Miller (17.7 ppg.) and Logan Irwin (13.1) to step up. Colorado Christian shoots better from beyond the arc than Grace, but the Lancers have a better shooting percentage overall and need to take advantage of that. Cinderella is a Lancer at heart.
The Pick: Grace 63, Colorado Christian 60.
Cal Poly (13-19) v. Texas Southern (19-14), NCAA Tournament First Round 6:40 p.m.
The Scoop: This morning on Riding the Pine Chris Plack and Roger Grossman debated what to call these opening round games that the NCAA has created. Plack argues they are called “play-in” games, Grossman says they are the “First Four.” Let me just say that Plack in so right with his argument that Roger should feel ashamed. These four play-in games are a joke, they are. I’m sorry, to the fans of these schools, but these are just stupid. So stupid, I am picking this game between two schools you may have never heard of.
Cal Poly is a Cinderella story that is somehow still going on. Like, the book should be over, but it’s not. The team entered the Big West conference tournament in sixth place and somehow managed to win the tournament to clinch the program’s first-ever NCAA tourney birth.
Texas Southern is making its fifth appearance in the Big Dance with second-year head coach, Mike Davis. Yes, IU fans, that Mike Davis. This is the third school that Davis has led to the NCAA’s, no easy feat. Davis will get his boys to win this game with ease. However, watch out for the winner of this game as it will be the No. 16 seed and take on undefeated Wichita State. Yeah, it’s a long shot but if Cal Poly wins, the Shockers don’t want to overlook Cinderella and if TSU wins, Mike Davis knows how to get the big win. Just saying.
The Pick: Texas Southern 91, Cal Poly 75.
UC Irvine (23-11) at Southern Methodist University (23-9), NIT First Round 9 p.m.
The Scoop: Stop it, Warsaw fans. Just stop it. I have never seen so many people from the state of Indiana throw a fit about a Texas team not getting into the NCAA tournament. Admit it already, if Nic Moore was not playing for the Mustangs, you would not care one bit about them being “snubbed.” And if Larry Brown was not the head coach, the national media would not think twice about this team missing a bid. The bottom line is that SMU’s non-conference schedule was awful. The Mustangs played nobody and that hurt the NCAA invite chances. Plus, the team lost to Houston in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference tournament. Houston? Seriously? You’re better than that, Larry.
The Mustangs are the top-seed in this year’s NIT and the road to the not-as-impressive final four starts tonight.
The Pick: SMU 86, UC Irvine 60.
Akron (21-12) at IPFW (24-10), CIT First Round, 7 p.m.
The Scoop: Feel the rumble! That’s the feeling of the Mastodons coming your way! Don’t act like you’re not impressed that the ‘Dons are playing in their first-ever Division I postseason tournament. 2013-14 has been the best season in IPFW basketball history thanks to the fantastic coaching of Tony Jasick and the hard work from the boys in blue.
The ‘Dons are led by big man Steve Forbes (6-9, 295 pounds) and have been blessed with a home game in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Yeah, it is not the most glorious of tournaments but it gives young and growing programs to continue building with postseason experience and the IPFW campus is buzzing with the opportunity to host tonight’s contest.
Warsaw graduate Jared Bloom has seen limited time with the team this year and may not see the court much tonight, but that Tiger connection should be enough to make you people care about this event! As a student, this is a big day for the school and everyone is excited for tonight’s momentous game. Haters, we don’t care what you think. No stats or figures needed for this game. Akron’s nickname is the Zips, the mascot is a kangaroo. (Fun Fact: “Zippy” the kangaroo is one of the very few female mascots in the NCAA.) Who would win a battle between an over-sized rat and a prehistoric beast that was rode by the gods into massive and bloody battles? (Don’t quote me on that.)
That’s right, the mastodon!
The Pick: IPFW 74, Akron 67.