March 5 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College men’s basketball team will open play in the 2008 NCAA Division III Tournament Thursday night with a first round game at #20 Capital (Ohio) University. Tip-off at The Capital Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Bison secured their conference record 12th PAC championship and an automatic bid to the Big Dance with a 90-76 triumph over Washington & Jefferson Saturday night at home. Senior guard Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) wrapped up his PAC Player of Year honor by leading four scorers in double figures with 30 points, while junior forward Petre Petkovski (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) tallied 14 points and seven rebounds.
Overall, this is the sixth time Bethany has earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament and fourth time in the last seven years. The Bison have a 2-6 record in the NCAAs, but have lost three straight. BC’s wins came in 1978 with a 70-65 triumph at Rose-Hulman and in 2002 when the Green and White upset Pitt-Bradford 110-98. Following the Bradford win, Bethany was knocked out by eventual national champion Otterbein (121-98). Their last two trips have seen the Bison drop first round contests, losing in 2005 at John Carroll (76-48) and in 2006 at Transylvania (75-56), who went on to reach the Elite Eight.
Although this is the Bison’s third trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last four years, there are only four players on the roster who have played in the national playoffs. Jackson, senior point guard Marcus Adams (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) and junior point guard Carey Palermo (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) were all on the 2006 team that lost at Transylvania, while Petkovski was a freshman on the 2006 Wheeling Jesuit team that earned a spot in the Division II tourney.
Bethany’s key to advancing past Thursday will likely be their offense, and more specifically, their outside shooting. BC, the highest scoring team in the PAC at 82.4 points per game, was 13-0 this season when scoring 80 or more in a game. Igniting the potent attack was the Bison’s perimeter game, as they have climbed to third in all of Division III in three-pointers per game with 10.7 and posted a 14-3 record when they knocked down 10 or more treys in a contest.
What makes the Green and White such a tough match-up for opponents is that so many of them can step out and bury a three. Jackson is the top threat with 3.5 triples per contest, which ranks him 11th in the nation. However, seven other Bison have hit 13 or more three-pointers, including Morando (58) and big men Jonas Ankrom (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan) and Petkovski with 28 each.
Bethany’s match-up with Capital is the third time they have been matched up with an Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) school in the NCAAs. Capital earned an at-large berth to this year’s NCAA Tournament, their second straight tournament bid. The Crusaders finished the year 23-5 and won the OAC regular season title. After beating Mount Union (67-54) and Ohio Northern (81-76 in OT) to reach the conference tournament championship, Capital was knocked off by Heidelberg 83-75. The loss was a rare one for the Crusaders at the Capital Center, where they have posted an 83-20 record since moving into the arena in 2001.
The Crusaders are a deep, talented squad who can beat teams a variety of ways. They are led by head coach Damon Goodwin, who is in his 14th year at the school. He was just named OAC Coach of the Year for the third time and he’s lead the Crusaders to three of their 10 NCAA Tournament appearances in school history. On the floor, they are led by the OAC Player of the Year Nate Stahl. The 6-6 junior did a little bit of everything in becoming just the third Capital player in school history to earn Player of the Year status in the conference. He was the third-leading scorer on the team with 12.4 points per game, ranked second in rebounding with 4.8 boards, passed out 41 assists and made a team-high 26 steals.
Other key players to watch include a pair of Second Team All-OAC selections. Inside, 6-5 senior forward Steve Kyser led the team in scoring (13.3) and rebounding (5.4), while 6-3 junior wing Ryan Wood was the team’s top marksman from the three-point line, drilling 63 triples on the year and averaging 13.2 points per game. The leading scorer off the bench is 6-6 forward Ross Niekamp, who cashed in 28 threes on the year on his way to posting 6.8 points per game.
The Bison offense will face a stern test in Capital, as they allowed just 70.2 points per game and surrendered more than 80 on just five occasions. The Crusaders also defend the arc well, as foes shot just 30.6 percent from this season and Capital only allowed teams to hit 10 or more threes in four games. Overall, the Crusaders held teams to an OAC-low 41.3 percent shooting from the floor. Even if teams manage to get to the basket, awaiting them is 6-8 senior post Ben Gunn, who led the conference and is ranked 10th in the country with 2.5 blocked shots per game.
This will be the sixth meeting all-time between Bethany and Capital on the hardwood. The Bison won the first meeting between the programs by a 45-39 count in 1940, but the Crusaders have captured the last four contests. The most recent match-up, an 86-66 Crusader victory, was in the 2003 season opener at the Capital Tip-Off Tournament.
The winner of Thursday’s first round game advances to a second round contest at Hope College in Holland, Mich., Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Flying Dutchmen are currently ranked #1 in the nation by D3Hoops.com after compiling a 24-3 record and capturing Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) regular season and tournament championships.