POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. –No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan and No. 10 Midland (Neb.) will play for their first ever national title tonight at the Keeter Gymnasium in Point Lookout, Mo., site of the 2014 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:02pm (CDT) and will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com.
The teams have a combined 10 appearances at the national championship but until this year, had not made it past the quarterfinals. Indiana Wesleyan, in its seventh trip, is 13-6 all-time at the Division II National Championship while Midland, making its third appearance at the championship, owns a 6-2 record at the championship.
In this, the 23rd Division II National Championship game this is the first #5 vs #10 match-up. In fact, neither a #5 or a #10 seed has won the national title and a #10 has never reach the championship game. Two title games featured a #5 seed, the first in 1995 where fifth-seed Northwest Nazarene (Idaho) lost to #3 Bethel (Ind.) and the second in 1997 where #5 Siena Heights (Mich.) lost to #2 Bethel. This is the 12th national championship game featuring two top-10 seeds.
This is the second title game match-up between teams from the Crossroads League (Indiana Wesleyan), renamed in 2011-12 after being the Mid-Central College Conference, and the Great Plains Athletic Conference (Midland). In 1992, they very first Division II Championship game, Grace (Ind.) defeated Northwestern (Iowa) 85-79 in overtime in the only title game between the two conferences.
Crossroads League teams are 5-3 all-time in the championship game, with Bethel winning three (1995, 1997, 1998) and Grace (1992) and University of Saint Francis (Ind.) (2010) winning one. The GPAC is 2-1 all-time in the title game with Northwestern winning in 2001 and 2003 and losing to Grace in 1992.
These two teams played earlier at the Cruzin Classic (Fla.) with Midland earning an 85-81 win over the Wildcats on Dec. 18. Midland led 54-41 in a high scoring first half and held off a late charge by IWU to earn the win. The Warriors shot 49% for the game and was led by Galen Gullie with 18 points and Jalen Hueser netted 16, going 4-for-7 from downtown.
Avery Langford (15) and Marcus Franklin (13) were also in double figures. Indiana Wesleyan shot 52% for the game and was led by Jordan Weidner with a then-career-high 33 points, which he bettered in the win over Friends in the quarterfinals, and RJ Mahurin chipped in 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Midland head coach Todd Eisner is the only coach to bring three different NAIA teams to the Division II National Championship Quaterfinals (Viterbo, Bellevue, Midland). Eisner guided Bellevue to the 2004 and 2008 championship games.
Greg Tonagel, in his ninth season as the head coach of the Wildcats, is already the winningest coach in the program’s history. He also has the highest winning percentage, most regular season victories, most post-season victories, most national tournament appearances and wins in the school’s history.
No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan is making their sixth consecutive and seventh overall trip to Point Lookout, all coming since the 2007 season. They are 13-6 all-time at the championship but this is the first year they have made it past the weekend, having lost in the quarterfinals four times prior to Saturday.
They have four wins, all by double digits, at this year’s championship, defeating Reinhardt (Ga.), Oklahoma Wesleyan, Friends (Kan.) and Southeastern (Fla.). One of four teams from the Crossroads League to reach the field of 32, IWU qualified by winning the regular season title and has won 13 of its 14 games heading into Tuesday. They closed the year ranked fifth in the NAIA Coaches’ poll and are 30-6 overall.
No. 10 Midland is making its third overall appearance at the championship. They lost in the first round in 2000 and reached the quarterfinals last season, losing to top-seed William Penn (Iowa) on a last second shot, 67-66. Midland has wins over Embry-Riddle (Fla.), no. 7 Saint Xavier (Ill.) Bethel (Ind.) and Robert Morris (Ill.) to reach the title game.
They set the record for the largest margin of victory in a semifinal game in last night’s 100-61 win over the Eagles. One of three teams from the Great Plains Athletic Conference to qualify for the Division II Championship, Midland finished tied with Morningside in the regular season with a 16-4 record.
They lost in the first round of the conference tournament and earned the second at-large bid into the field of 32. The Warriors have won eight of their last nine games, were ranked 10th in the final poll and are 30-5 overall.