There’s only one result that would be surprising when the UW-Parkside men’s basketball team hosts Lake Superior State in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference quarterfinal at 7:30 tonight at the DeSimone Gymnasium.
If either coach is loosening his tie and sending in the reserves with a couple of minutes left in the game, that would qualify as a stunner.
The third-seeded Rangers (15-11) swept the sixth-seeded Lakers (15-11) during the regular season, but it easily could’ve been the other way around.
On Jan. 17 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., redshirt freshman guard Brandon Trimble’s off-balanced shot from the baseline at the buzzer gave Parkside an 83-81 victory.
And on Feb. 21 at the DeSimone, redshirt senior forward Chip Flanigan converted on a driving layup with two seconds remaining for a 60-58 Parkside win.
The Rangers’ tight wins over the Lakers serve as larger proof of something for all eight teams in the GLIAC Tournament: The conference is balanced and competitive, so don’t be surprised by anything in the conference tournament.
“When you look across the league, I think most of the games are a toss-up,” Parkside coach Luke Reigel said Monday afternoon. “We could’ve just as easily gone 0-2 against Lake State as we went 2-0.”
What was interesting was the difference in style between the two games. In Michigan, the teams combined for 164 points. In Somers, they combined for 118.
“The thing that’s interesting about the games we played against them is, the first game was a high-scoring, flying up-and-down game, and the second game was a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair,” Reigel said. “I would an anticipate something in the middle (tonight).”
Parkside, which went 13-7 in conference play to win the GLIAC North Division title by a game over Ferris State and by two over Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State, is looking to advance closer to collecting the conference tournament title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
The Rangers made the national tournament five years in row before being ineligible last season due to sanctions placed on the athletic department by their then-conference, the Great Lakes Valley Conference, that banned Parkside’s teams from postseason play.
The winner of tonight’s game advances to Saturday’s semifinals, with the championship scheduled for Sunday.
It’s possible that those games could be right at Parkside, which boasts an 11-1 home record this season, again.
The highest remaining seed after tonight’s games will host Saturday’s semifinals and Sunday’s championship game. Top-seeded Davenport hosts eighth-seeded Northwood tonight, while second-seeded Ashland hosts seventh-seeded Grand Valley State.
If Davenport and Ashland lose and Parkside wins, the Rangers would be the highest remaining seed.
There’s also a significant wrinkle in this year’s GLIAC Tournament. Davenport, the top seed and the team that had the conference’s best overall record, isn’t eligible to collect the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers were previously an NAIA program and gained acceptance into the GLIAC last season.
Per NCAA rules, Davenport is completing Provisional Year Three and won’t be a full NCAA member, and therefore eligible to compete for NCAA Division II championships, until 2019-20.
That means that if Davenport reaches Sunday’s title game, whoever is playing the Panthers will get the GLIAC’s automatic bid, win or lose.
Of course, Reigel isn’t concerned about that with his players.
The Rangers have been off since Thursday, their longest break since the holidays. That, Reigel said, has afforded him the chance to do more analysis of his own team rather than mostly watch film of the next opponent.
What Reigel found was that the Rangers have been giving solid defensive performances pretty much every night, but there’s room for improvement offensively.
“We haven’t clicked on all cylinders offensively lately,” Reigel said. “Lately it’s been a find-a-way-to-win mentality. I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet.
“When you have a little extra time with only one game last week and then the break, you analyze your own roster a little bit, and we have quite a few guys that have struggled lately offensively.”
Part of that is the long haul of the regular season and having to play opponents for a second time, so Reigel said he was hoping for “a postseason boost” on offense.
“I think the biggest thing is just familiarity,” Reigel said. “Teams watch so much tape on every team now. They know everyone’s individual tendencies. So it’s that much more difficult to score.”
Against Lake Superior State, that hasn’t been an issue for Flanigan, at least.
In the teams’ first meeting, Flanigan made history by scoring a career-high 32 points on 13-of-13 shooting from the field. That was the most field goals made without a miss in NCAA Division II since 2016 and the seventh-most all-time.
Then in the second meeting, Flanigan made the game-winning shot and finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
Among the top of the GLIAC in just about every statistical category imaginable, Flanigan has been the Rangers’ anchor on both ends of the floor and leads them with 13.9 points per game.
Trimble (11.9 points per game), redshirt freshman center Joey St. Pierre (10.4) and senior guard Adam Bonk (10.1) are also scoring in double figures for the Rangers.
St. Pierre led the GLIAC in field-goal percentage (63.7), while Bonk finished third in 3-point field-goal percentage (44.1).
Junior guard Malek Adams leads the Lakers at 16.6 points per game, which ranked eighth in the conference. Due to both foul trouble and Flanigan’s defense, he was held to three points on 0-of-6 shooting in the teams’ last meeting at the DeSimone.
Senior forward Blake Marquardt, an Oshkosh North product, went 5-of-11 from 3-point range and led the Lakers with 17 points in that matchup. Marquardt, named the GLIAC North Player of the Week on Monday, is averaging 9.7 points per game.
The expectation for tonight is certainly another down-to-the wire affair — the Rangers have been playing those for a solid month now — and Reigel is happy to have some home cooking on his team’s side.
“There seems to be a buzz,” he said. “I think our community, the campus, is very excited about a postseason game at the DeSimone. I know our players are jacked to play one more home game, at the least.”