MONMOUTH, Ill. – The field for this weekend’s Midwest Conference Men’s Basketball Championships at Monmouth College’s Glennie Gymnasium has been set for weeks, but it wasn’t until last Saturday that the seeds were finalized, indicating just how competitive the games for the tournament title and the NCAA berth that goes with it will be.
Monmouth (18-7) – picked sixth in the MWC preseason coaches’ poll – clinched its first outright conference championship Saturday with a tight road win over Cornell just days after clinching at least a share of the title and the right to host the four-team tournament. It’s the Scots’ first league crown since 1990 and the first time they’ve hosted the tournament since 1998. Ripon (17-8), St. Norbert (19-6) and Lake Forest (17-8) are making a return trip to the four-team tournament after qualifying for the championships in 2016 and 2017. The Red Hawks took last year’s tournament title and the automatic NCAA berth after defeating the Foresters in the title game following Lake Forest’s upset of the league champion Green Knights in the semifinals.
“I’ve always felt that the Midwest Conference is a very strong basketball conference,” said Monmouth coach Todd Skrivseth, who takes his team to the league tournament for the second time in four years. “It’s a fine line between winning and losing during the regular season and now that we’re in the postseason, that line gets even smaller with the quality of teams in the tournament.”
The Scots face fourth-seeded Lake Forest in Friday’s late game at 7 p.m. in Glennie Gym. The teams split their prior two meetings as each team won on their home court. Senior guard Eric Porter leads the Foresters, averaging 16.7 points per game. Danny Sotos, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, adds 12.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Foresters, who average 75.5 points per contest. Monmouth’s 1-2 punch features seniors Justin Aluya and Will Jones. Aluya – a 6-foot-5 forward – has averaged nearly a double-double per game with 15.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. In the Scots’ last 10 games, Aluya is averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. Jones – a 1,000-point scorer – pumps in 14.5 points and snares 7.2 rebounds per game. He’s also wrapping up his career in the top five of four major categories: points, rebounds, steals and assists. The Scots average 76.6 points per game.
Friday’s first game tips off at 5 p.m., when No. 2 seeded Ripon faces third-seeded St. Norbert. The Red Hawks swept the Green Knights this season to earn the head-to-head tiebreaker after both squads finished conference play at 14-4. A pair of guards leads Ripon, which averages 76.9 points per game – tops among the tournament field. Just two-tenths of a point separates Tyler Semenas and Isaac Masters for the scoring lead. Semenas – a 6-3 guard – has the narrow edge with a 15.5 points per game average. St. Norbert – with the lowest points-per-game average among the four teams (72.0) – has gotten to the tournament with its defense. The Green Knights have given up a league-low 62.1 points per contest. That’s not to say the Knights don’t have scoring threats, as senior guard D.J. DeValk leads the defending league champions with a 15.7 point per game average and Mitchell Reinthaler is right behind at 14.5
“If you’re a basketball fan, Glennie Gym will be the place to be this weekend,” said Skrivseth. “There’s nothing like small college basketball. It’s a chance to see four quality teams go at it with tremendous intensity in a great environment.”
The winners of Friday’s games will meet for the league title Saturday at 3 p.m. Per day admission to the tournament is $5 for adults and $3 for children and students with a college ID. Children three and under will be admitted free of charge. Backpacks, coolers, drinks and food will not be permitted inside the Huff Athletic Center.
Fans unable to make the game may watch on-line at MonmouthScots.com. or listen to our Prairie Radio Sports Network broadcast on AM 1330/FM 94.1 WRAM