The region is sending three local college basketball programs -- two women’s teams and a men’s team -- to their respective NAIA Division II national tournaments, and today they all learned their opponents and seeds.
The Purdue Northwest women are appearing in the 32-team national tourney, which runs from March 8 to 14 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Pride, formerly Purdue Calumet before a consolidation with Purdue North Central, are making their sixth appearance at nationals in program history.
The Indiana Northwest women are in the tournament for the first time since the program’s only other two appearances, 2010 and 2011.
The Calumet College men are first-time participants in the men’s tourney, which runs March 8-to 14 in Point Lookout, Missouri, at the College of the Ozarks.
Pride on the line: The shot clock is ticking down for everyone, but Purdue Northwest seniors Cassidy Deno and Darien Thompson are particularly eager to put up that one last salvo and end their careers with a lasting impact.
By virtue of earning the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s third and final automatic bid to nationals, the pair of PNW seniors will have that opportunity.
“We’re really excited obviously,” PNW coach Tom Megyesi said. “I think (Deno and Thompson) are seniors that know their college basketball career is running out of time, so they’re giving it everything they have every single game. Teams focus on Cassidy, and Darien picks up the slack. These are two great leaders, great examples and the type of student-athletes we love to have in our program.”
Deno, a 6-foot shooting guard from Benton Central, had the highest single-game scoring output in the nation on Feb. 1 when she poured in 51 against Olivet Nazarene. She averaged 20.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and ranked in the national top 10 in four categories, including being sixth in scoring and fourth in free throw percentage (90.7).
Thompson has 18 20-point games this season including a career-best 35 against Holy Cross Feb. 11. She’s averaging 18.8 points per contest with 50 steals on the year, all while shooting 84 percent from the foul line.
Purdue Northwest (24-8) will be seeded fourth in the eight-team Cramer bracket, facing 5-seed Indiana East (28-5) at 1:45 p.m. March 8 and, if victorious, the winner of No. 1-Marian-No. 8 Olivet Nazarene.
Last season Purdue Calumet made the national tourney, got seeded sixth, and lost 73-69 to Mount Marty in the opening round before watching Mount Marty make the semifinal round.
“In the beginning it was about getting there,” Megyesi said. “Now it’s, ‘Let’s do something once we get there.’
“Last year motivated our returning players to work hard in the summer and in practice, and this has been an outstanding group to coach."
RedHawks charging into nationals: After setting a program record for wins, IU Northwest is the No. 4 seed in the eight-team Liston bracket. The RedHawks (25-6) face No. 5 seed Cardinal Stritch (24-5) at 10:15 a.m. March 8.
The winner of No. 1 Concordia (Nebraska)-No. 8 Bryan (Tennessee) awaits.
"Our goal at the beginning of each season is always to qualify for the national tournament,” IUN coach Ryan Shelton said. “We are excited to have accomplished that and for our seniors."
Grayce Roach (Hobart) earned first team all-conference honors with Nicki Monahan (Portage), while Shelton was named AII coach of the year for the fourth time (2009, 2010, 2013, 2017).
Crimson Wave gets no respect: As the new kid on the block and a team that is without its leading scorer via injury, the Calumet College men drew a No. 8 seed and will face No. 1 Bethel College in the Duer bracket.
The Crimson Wave (17-13) lost returning all-CCAC player Johnny Baldwin to a broken foot Jan. 14 against Robert Morris yet still rallied to win six of their final seven games and win the CCAC South Division to earn the program’s first national tourney berth.
“We always had that next-game mentality,” Sexson said last month. “Guys really bought into that and reinforced it, whether it was a home win or road win, and we put ourselves in position to be able to concentrate on ourselves and continue to play good, consistent basketball.”