Road to Nationals: Jimmie men among six teams with title-game hopesIt’s been an up and down season for the Jamestown College men’s basketball team. Despite a sub-.500 record, the Jimmies have played plenty of good basketball this season. No better example of that came at the Civic Center Nov. 30 when they had the No. 1 team in the NAIA — William Penn of Iowa — on the ropes before the 28-1 Statesmen escaped with a three-point win. The Jimmies (13-17) are hoping to bottle some of that magic this weekend as host of the Association of Independent Institutions tournament, where they need two wins to return to nationals.
By: By Dave Selvig, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
It’s been an up and down season for the Jamestown College men’s basketball team.
Despite a sub-.500 record, the Jimmies have played plenty of good basketball this season. No better example of that came at the Civic Center Nov. 30 when they had the No. 1 team in the NAIA — William Penn of Iowa — on the ropes before the 28-1 Statesmen escaped with a three-point win.
The Jimmies (13-17) are hoping to bottle some of that magic this weekend as host of the Association of Independent Institutions tournament, where they need two wins to return to nationals.
“It’s right there in front of us,” said JC men’s coach Justin Wieck. “There’s no easy game this time of season and there shouldn’t be. Every team is talented, athletic, and like us, hungry to keep playing.
“It’s going to be a great weekend of basketball with six very good men’s and women’s basketball teams coming to town.”
To advance, the fifth-seeded Jimmies will have to beat No. 4 seed Ashford, Iowa (19-11) tonight and then knock off ninth-ranked nationally and top overall seed this weekend in Rochester, Mich., (20-3) Saturday night.
“We’ve had a good week of preparation. I feel really good about the work our guys have put in and I feel like we’re ready,” Wieck said. “Ashford is really talented, really athletic. Defensively, they make it hard for you, but you wouldn’t expect anything less. Everybody is going to be good.”
A big key for the Jimmies is getting offensive production outside of junior stars Mark Hoge and Davon Thomas. They’ve also done well in tournament formats, going 4-0 with titles in Wisconsin November and here in January.
This field is the toughest of the three, but playing at home will help. Wieck is expecting an entertaining tournament, but would enjoy it much more if his team can hang around.
“There’s really good teams from all over the country. It’s a great opportunity to go to the Civic Center and see some really good basketball,” Wieck said. “Obviously, we want to stick around as long as we can and give our fans something to cheer about.”
Association of Independent Institutions Tournament
At Jamestown Civic Center
No. 1 Rochester (Mich.)
Coach: Klint Pleasant (2nd year)
Key players: Dramell Hogan (19 ppg, 7 rpg); Drew Maynard (17 ppg, 7 rpg); Stavros Schizas (12 ppg); Brad Norman (10 ppg).
Season so far: The Warriors score a bunch (76 ppg) and don’t give up many (54 ppg). They’re ranked No. 9 nationally and are a strong No. 1 seed.
No. 2 Valley City State
Coach: Jeff Kaminsky (8th year)
Key players: Sekani Milligen (18.5 ppg), Gus Kueber (12 ppg), Aaron Duske (11 ppg); John Raquel (10 ppg); A.J. McDonald (8 ppg).
Season so far: The Vikings have spent the entire season in the NAIA top 25 and are currently 23rd. Milligen is one of the best players in the country. He could carry the Vikings a long way.
No. 3 Dakota State
Coach: Gary Garner (4th year)
Key players: Tyrone Gordon Jr. (14 ppg, 4 apg); John Lamb (12 ppg); Luke Lamb (12 ppg); Yusuf Vinson (11 ppg, 8 rpg).
Season so far: Dakota State has been in and out of the top 25 this season. The Trojans are certainly capable of getting back to nationals after winning the A.I.I. tournament as host last season.
No. 4 Ashford (Iowa)
Coach: Oliver Drake (3rd year)
Key players: DeAndre Lowery (14 ppg, 4.6 apg); Vesteinn Sveinsson (12 ppg, 5 rpg); Brandon Weston (10 ppg).
Season so far: The Saints make it hard to score, allowing only 57 points per game. They’re balanced offensively with seven players averaging five points or more. They also take care of the ball with a plus-minus turnover ratio of 363-487.
No. 5 Jamestown College
Coach: Justin Wieck (1st year)
Key players: Mark Hoge (17.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg); Davon Thomas (15 ppg, 7 rpg); Breshion Tucker (8 ppg, 4 apg); Taylor Newton (8 ppg).
Season so far: The Jimmies are a dangerous No. 5 seed. A big key will be getting points from someone other than Hoge and Thomas. Tucker had a career-best 24 points in a win over Mayville State, while Taylor Newton had 16. They’ll need more of that tonight to advance.
No. 6 Northern New Mexico
Coach: Ryan Cordova (3rd year)
Key players: Brandon Jones (12 ppg); Matthew Brito (9.5 ppg); Gabriel Martinez (9 ppg).
Season so far: Don’t be fooled by the Eagles’ record. They beat the Jimmies, swept Mayville State, split with South Dakota Mines and played Valley City State tough once. They have extreme offensive balance with 11 players averaging five points or more.
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org