Wooster Hosting NCAA 1st- and 2nd-Round Action This Week

Scott Purcell
Scott Purcell

The College of Wooster has been selected as a host site for the opening weekend of the 2014 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship, as first- and second-round action will be taking place at 3,400-seat Timken Gymnasium this Friday and Saturday, March 7-8. The Fighting Scots, who captured both the North Coast Atheltic Conference's regular season and tournament championships and ranked No. 8 in D3hoops.com's final regular season poll, drew Saint Vincent College (22-6), champions of the Presidents' Athletic Conference, in the opener. Also coming to Wooster are a pair of at-large selections to the field in Dickinson College (21-6) and State University of New York at Geneseo (21-6). They will match-up in Friday's first game at 5:30 p.m., followed by Saint Vincent-Wooster at 7:30 p.m., and the two winners play each other Saturday at 7 p.m., for the right to advance to the NCAA third round (Round of 16). This is the fifth consecutive year Wooster has hosted games in the NCAA Div. III tourney.

Ticket Information: As determined by the NCAA, ticket prices for this weekend's opening rounds are $6 for adults and $4 for senior citizens, students, and children (under two are free). There will be no advanced ticket sales and doors/sales open Friday at 4 p.m., and Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Also of note, a single ticket is good for both games on Friday and artificial noisemakers are prohibited.

College of Wooster students, please note that you can be part of the excitement for free (just present your College ID to receive a ticket).

On the Air: For fans unable to make it to Timken Gymnasium, the College will be providing live video of all three games at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/wooster.portal#.

There will be live stats as well at http://livestats.prestosports.com/wooster/.

Additionally, every Wooster game can be heard live in the Wooster area on WQKT 104.5 FM or on the commercial radio station's website at http://www.wqkt.com/. Mike Breckenridge serves as the "Voice of the Fighting Scots."

NCAA Tourney Notes: The Scots are making their 23rd appearance in the NCAA Div. III tourney. Only six others have been in as many – Franklin & Marshall College (23), Hope College (24), Illinois Wesleyan University (23), Salem State College (23), University of Scranton (25), and Wittenberg University (27).

Wooster, which also played in two other NCAA Tournaments prior to Div. III (1971, 1973), has been in the national field 19 of the last 20 seasons and 22 times since 1990. The Scots' all-time record in the Div. III tourney is 29-23 – 21-7 in games played at Timken Gymnasium, 7-6 at neutral sites, and 1-10 in true road games. Wooster has reached the Div. III sectional round ("Sweet 16") nine times over the last 15 years, highlighted by runs to the 2011 national championship game and to the semifinals two other times (2003, 2007).

Against the 2014 NCAA Field: Wooster had very good in-season preparation for the 2014 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship, as it played seven games against teams that are now part of the field, going 6-1 in those games. The Scots edged Wheaton (Ill.) College 77-73 in the championship game of their annual Al Van Wie/Rotary Classic tournament, and they played fellow North Coast Athletic Conference foes Ohio Wesleyan University and Wittenberg University three times. Wooster split the regular season with Ohio Wesleyan, prevailing 79-71 on Dec. 4 and then getting tripped up 62-60 on Jan. 29 before dispatching the Battling Bishops in the NCAC semis 78-67. For the second consecutive season, the Scots took three games from their archrival, Wittenberg, winning 69-62 on Jan. 18, 60-55 on Feb. 15, and 71-63 in the NCAC Tournament championship game.

All-Time Series: Wooster has never played Saint Vincent or SUNY Geneseo on the hardwood.

The Scots and Dickinson met up for just the second time in their all-time series last year during the second round of the NCAA Div. III Championship, an 80-54 victory. Prior to that, Wooster toppled the Red Devils 86-31 as part of the annual "Mose" Hole/Kiwanis Classic on Dec. 28, 1995.

Head Coach Steve Moore: The architect behind the winningest NCAA men's basketball team of the 2000s is Steve Moore. In addition to guiding Wooster to 386 victories this century, he carries a 27-year record of 644-143 (.818) with the Fighting Scots. Prior to coming to Wooster in 1987-88, Moore coached Muhlenberg College for six seasons and was successful there as well, giving him a career record of 731-208 (.778), which puts him third all-time in wins for Div. III coaches. Moore has eight Coach-of-the-Year honors from the North Coast Athletic Conference.

Regular Season Recap: With a veteran lineup, featuring three senior starters, Wooster won a series of close games as 13 of the 25 games were decided by seven points or less. The Scots went 10-3 in those, fueling their 22-3 record, North Coast Athletic Conference championship, and No. 8 national ranking (D3hoops.com).

Wooster faced a very challenging schedule early on, playing three top-25 ranked teams during the first six games, but passed each test. The Scots knocked off then-No. 5 Wheaton (Ill.) College in the championship game of their Al Van Wie/Rotary Tournament, then went on the road where it edged No. 23 Marietta College 81-78, and rolled past No. 24 DePauw 64-48 in early-season league action.

Arizona Christian University, the No. 6 rated team in NAIA Div. I, came back from a 19-point deficit early in the second half to deliver the Scots their first loss, 62-60, but then Wooster responded with maybe its best stretch of the season – a seven-game winning streak, including an average margin of victory of 20.7 points. One of those victories was a 69-62 decision at rival and No. 9 ranked Wittenberg.

DePauw ended the streak, evening the season series via a 78-74 triumph in Indiana, and No. 17 Ohio Wesleyan followed with a game-closing 15-3 stretch to trip up the Scots 62-60 and force a four-way tie for first-place in the conference standings. Wooster, though, steadied itself and won its last seven games, higlighted by a 60-55 victory over No. 15 Wittenberg, to close out another NCAC championship, their ninth in 10 seasons.

The Scots were led by the all-star backcourt of senior Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) and junior Xavier Brown (Bowling Green, Ohio / Bowling Green). They put up remarkably similar numbers in a variety of statistical categories throughout the year, with Thorpe averaging 15.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists during the regular season. Brown was at 15.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, and the third member of the backcourt is junior Jalen Goodwin (Liberty Twp., Ohio / Lakota East), who seemed to find his offensive stroke late, making 6-of-14 3-pointers during the month of Febuary to increase his scoring average to 2.8 points.

On the wing, senior Scott Purcell (Oxford, Ohio / Badin) and junior Evan Pannell (Akron, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban) swap an even amount of playing time, and they also have similar stat lines. Purcell, behind 42.9 percent 3-point shooting, averaged 7.2 poitns and 3.7 rebounds, and the athletic Pannell contributed 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

Senior Kenny DeBoer (Westerville, Ohio / Westerville North) is a 6-5 forward who contributed in a number of different areas. In fact, he rated as the team leader in rebounds (4.7 rpg) and assists (2.7 apg) while also scoring in double figures (10.3 ppg).

On the inside, Wooster is young, but freshman Dan Fanelly (Uniontown, Ohio / Green) and sophomore Josh Kipfer (Wadsworth, Ohio / Wadsworth) developed into a formidable 1-2 combo. With three of five double-digit scoring games to close the regular season, Fanelly upped his average to 8.3 points, while Kipfer added 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds.