Men’s Basketball: North Central hosts Wesleyan in D-III tourney
BY PAUL JOHNSON For Sun-Times Media March 14, 2013 5:26PM
(From left) Aaron Tiknis, Charlie Rosenberg, and Jack Burchett (32) of North Central embrace after the Cardinals' 64-60 win over Wisconsin-Whitewater last Saturday. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 16, 2013 4:14PM
Usually when you reach the third round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship, you’re preparing for a team that may not be that familiar.
That is not the situation North Central College finds itself in going into Saturday’s 7 p.m. showdown at Gregory Arena with Illinois Wesleyan.
The Cardinals (26-3) are all too familiar with their CCIW rivals, having split two close games this season. Wesleyan won the regular season conference title, while NCC won the conference tournament. The third match-up comes with a berth in the Elite Eight and a trip to Salem, Va. on the line.
“The CCIW is very good,” North Central senior Derek Raridon said. “We knew that coming into the tournament. It will be a fun rivalry match. Wesleyan doesn’t like us very much, and we don’t like them too much. It will be a good, classic CCIW battle. It will be all 40 minutes.”
The rivalry between the two teams has been decidedly one-sided through history, with Wesleyan (23-5) holding a 112-37 edge all-time. But the Cardinals swept both games last year and split this year as both teams have developed into national powers.
“North Central has put together a two-year run that is pretty impressive,” Wesleyan coach Ron Rose said. “They’re a good basketball team. It’s two teams that have the same goal. That creates a natural rivalry. I think both teams have highly competitive guys and play a physical style of basketball. We’re both playing for the same things. We both want the conference championship, the conference tournament and to advance as far as we can in the national tournament. When you put all of those dynamics together, there’s going to be a pretty high level of focus.”
The teams are fairly similar in construction. The Cardinals have four players that average between 14.6 and 9.7 points per game, led by CCIW Player of the Year Derek Raridon and fellow first-team All-CCIW pick Landon Gamble (14.3 points per game). Wesleyan is led by junior Andrew Ziemnik. The Oswego graduate averages 11.1 points per game and joined Raridon and Gamble on the All-CCIW first team.
The Titans have five guys that average between 11.1 and 9.4 points per game.
“They know what we’re going to do and we know what they’re going to do,” North Central coach Todd Raridon said. “Both teams know each other so well. I expect a great game from both teams and hopefully our kids will be ready to play.”
Due to the familiarity and the similar styles of the teams, neither team will likely be able to pull a fast one on the other team. It’s going to come down to the little things to determine who will be packing for Virginia.
“We’re both quality teams,” Ziemnik said. “It’s been really competitive. They move the ball well, run their offense well, we do the same things. It’s real tough, real physical.”