The Great Plains Athletic Conference basketball tournament runner-up will advance to nationals this winter if the tournament champion is the same team as the regular-season champion, according to GPAC Commissioner Corey Westra.
Information issued last Friday on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics website (naia.org) stated the regular-season runner-up in men's basketball would advance if the conference tournament winner was the same as the conference champion. The GPAC receives two automatic bids to the NAIA men's and women's national basketball tournaments: the conference champion and the conference tournament champion or tournament runner-up if it's the same team.
Morningside College (16-3 GPAC) has already locked up the GPAC regular-season title in men's basketball, with a potential four-way tie brewing for second between the University of Jamestown (14-5), Northwestern College (14-5), Dakota Wesleyan University (13-6) and Concordia University (13-6) when regular season play concludes this Saturday.
Regardless, Jimmie men's basketball will be in the thick of chasing down the GPAC tournament's berth to nationals beginning with quarterfinal games at higher seeds next Wednesday (Feb. 24).
The false information displayed on NAIA's website has since been corrected. The NAIA national men's basketball tournament begins with opening-round games at host sites on March 12.
"If Morningside wins the tournament for the men, it goes to the tournament runner-up," Westra said of the GPAC's second national qualifier. "I contacted the NAIA and apparently the men had it wrong and the women had it right."
Westra said changing the conference's second national qualifier in basketball to the regular-season runner-up has been a topic of discussion but nothing has been acted on.
"Our coaches talked about doing that, and I don't know if we will someday, but we wanted to wait and see how this (Rating Percentage Index) deal plays out," Westra said. "To me, I think if you're No. 2 in the regular season in the GPAC you're going to have a pretty good RPI. I don't want to say waste a bid, that sounds negative, but do you want to use a bid there when you could still have that team in the tournament and be maybe that extra team?"
The final day of men's basketball in the conference Saturday will be a doozy, with Jamestown at Dakota Wesleyan, Morningside at Northwestern, and Doane at Concordia.
Dordt (12-7) and Briar Cliff (9-10) are locked into the conference tournament with seeds six and seven, respectively. The Defenders play at the Chargers on Saturday.
A Jamestown win at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, would assure the Jimmies of earning at least the No. 3 seed, which would have the Jimmies hosting Dordt next Wednesday in the GPAC quarterfinals. The Jimmies could also earn the No. 2 seed and host Briar Cliff next Wednesday but would need to couple a win over the Tigers with a Northwestern loss to Morningside as the Red Raiders hold a potential tiebreaker over the Jimmies.
A Jamestown loss at Dakota Wesleyan will have the Jimmies winding up as the No. 3, unless the Jimmies, Northwestern, Concordia and Dakota Wesleyan all end up in a four-way tie at 14-6, which happens if the Jimmies lose at Dakota Wesleyan, Morningside defeats Northwestern and Concordia defeats Doane.
If that transpires, Jamestown drops all the way to No. 5 and would travel to No. 4 Northwestern on Wednesday to once again face the Raiders.
"Just go get a win," said University of Jamestown men's basketball coach Danny Neville on this weekend's trip to the Corn Palace. "We just gotta go in there and believe in what we do."
Neville has directed some talented UJ teams in Mitchell over his six years as the team's head coach but is 1-4 at the Tigers' home barn, including a season-ending loss there last winter in the GPAC tournament quarterfinals.
Jamestown relied on its defense to power past Dakota Wesleyan 74-66 at Harold Newman Arena back on Jan. 20, which kicked off a six-game winning streak for the 21st-ranked Jimmies. Jamestown forced costly Dakota Wesleyan turnovers in the second half and held the Tigers to less than 70 points in a loss for the first time since DW's opening game of the season back in November.
The Tigers have played to a record of 3-3 since that loss, also falling to Morningside, Concordia and Dordt.
"I don't think either team played super well offensively, but they try to slow the game down and they're good defensively," Neville said. "I think we can try and push the pace a little bit and get them playing at our pace rather than us playing at their pace."
The Jimmies put Dakota Wesleyan point guard Nick Harden on a 10-point, one-assist performance last month in Jamestown. Harden is averaging a team-leading 17 points, four assists and a couple of steals per game for the Tigers.
UJ's Mason Walters is still leading the nation in total rebounds (298) and double-doubles (19) and is 15th in the NAIA averaging nearly 22 points per game.
Walters had what felt like a quiet 16 points and 10 rebounds in last week's 88-79 loss at Northwestern with senior Jack Talley unavailable, which snapped Jamestown's streak of wins. Talley was serving a one-game suspension for a flagrant technical foul assessed during the Jimmies' win hosting Midland on Feb. 6 and will be available to play on Saturday.
UJ guards Allante' Pickens and Cole Woodford will also be looking to bounce back from last week's off night in Orange City, Iowa, where they combined to convert 4 of 17 shots from the field. Pickens is UJ's second-leading scorer this season (12 ppg., 46 3-pointers), while Woodford is fourth (9.8 ppg, 40 3-pointers).
Sophomore guard Marc Kjos continued to scorch the net, burying 6 of 10 from beyond the arc, and has now converted 60 3-pointers and counting.
"I just think in crunch time we kinda folded and they made shots and got huge buckets," Neville said. "But, again, that happens. I mean, when you have two good teams duking it out there's one team that's going to win, and they made plays when they needed to and we didn't."
GREAT PLAINS ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Team Conf. Overall
(8) Morningside (Iowa) 16-3 20-3
(RV) Northwestern (Iowa) 14-5 19-5
(21) Jamestown 14-5 18-6
(RV) Dakota Wes. (S.D.) 13-6 17-7
Concordia (Neb.) 13-6 16-8
Dordt (Iowa) 12-7 17-7
Briar Cliff (Iowa) 9-10 12-12
Mount Marty (S.D.) 6-14 9-16
Doane (Neb.) 3-16 6-18
Midland (Neb.) 3-16 5-17
Hastings (Neb.) 2-17 6-18
Around the GPAC
Concordia 106, Hastings 73
Morningside at Northwestern, 4 p.m.
Doane at Concordia, 4 p.m.
Jamestown at Dakota Wesleyan, 4 p.m.
Midland at Hastings, 4 p.m.
Dordt at Briar Cliff, 4 p.m.
END OF REGULAR SEASON
Team Conf. Overall
(7) Morningside (Iowa) 20-1 22-2
(22) Concordia (Neb.) 16-5 17-7
(RV) Northwestern (Iowa) 16-5 16-8
Briar Cliff (Iowa) 14-7 16-8
Dordt (Iowa) 13-8 14-10
Midland (Neb.) 12-9 15-9
Dakota Wes. (S.D.) 11-9 13-9
Jamestown 11-10 14-10
Hastings (Neb.) 6-15 7-16
Doane (Neb.) 3-18 5-19
Mount Marty (S.D.) 2-18 4-19
St. Mary (Neb.) 1-20 2-22
Around the GPAC
Hastings 59, St. Mary’s 56
Dakota Wesleyan at Mount Marty, 7 p.m.
Morningside at Northwestern, 2 p.m.
Doane at Concordia, 2 p.m.
Jamestown at Dakota Wesleyan, 2 p.m.
Midland at Hastings, 2 p.m.
Dordt at Briar Cliff, 2 p.m.
Mount Marty at St. Mary, 2 p.m.
END OF REGULAR SEASON