First up: Indiana Wesleyan.
It’s the first nationals bid in IU East’s NAIA basketball history. The Red Wolves joined the NAIA in 2007.
“This was the goal, to make it to nationals, and to do it in my last season feels good” said senior guard Brent Burris (Indianapolis, Ind./Home school). “Once we found out we were in, it was a sigh of relief that my season and my career were not over.”
The tournament runs March 9-15. The IU East-Indiana Wesleyan game will tip off at 6:45 p.m. (Richmond time) on March 9.
The NAIA announced the national tournament field and pairings March 2.
“This is more than a team or coach accomplishment. It’s an institutional accomplishment, and that we’ve been able to achieve this in such a short time says so much about this university and the support we’ve been given by our administration,” said Red Wolves coach Mark Hester.
“Now that we’re in, we can’t go in with the mindset that we’re just happy to be there,” Hester added. “We’ve got to have the idea we have the ability to go deep in the tournament, and that we need to represent the school and the conference to the best of our abilities.”
Indiana Wesleyan (26-7) is the No. 9 seed for the 32-team event.
The winner of the Indiana Wesleyan-IU East game will face No. 8 seed Oregon Institute of Technology or Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) in the Sweet 16.
The Red Wolves are familiar with the Wildcats from some summer open gym encounters.
“They are a good team,” Burris said. “Obviously we haven’t played them in a real game but we feel it’s a good matchup for us.”
Indiana Wesleyan and IU East have met once since the Red Wolves joined the NAIA. The Wildcats won that meeting 111-67 in 2007.
IU East is one of two first-time participants in the nationals field.
“People are going to be excited because this is our first time to make it to nationals,” Hester said. “But I want this to become a regular thing. I want our program to be one that expects to travel to Missouri every March.”