Wittenberg plays the host Polar Bears, the regular season and tournament champions of the Ohio Athletic Conference, at 8 p.m. Friday in the second game of a doubleheader. The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and Carthage College will play the opener at 6 p.m. Friday.
The 71-51 victory over Maryville was Wittenberg's first in an NCAA tournament since March 1997 when the Tigers defeated John Carroll University in the first round before losing to Mount Union College to close out the season in the second round. Despite the four-year tournament drought, Wittenberg is the winningest team in Division III history with 41 wins since the postseason competition was introduced in 1974.
The Tigers, ranked fourth in the country in both the d3hoops.com and National Association of Basketball Coaches polls, faces its greatest challenge of the 2000-01 season against Ohio Northern, which finished the season ranked No. 1 in the NABC poll and No. 2 in the d3hoops.com rankings. The Polar Bears are on a 16-game win streak, including Saturday's 79-68 victory over defending national champion Calvin College. ONU is also no stranger to postseason success, having advanced to the national competition seven of the last nine years - including the last three in a row - and won the 1993 championship.
Wittenberg and Ohio Northern have a long history on the hardcourt, including 21 confrontations as members of the OAC between 1972 and 1989. The two teams have played 69 times overall, with Wittenberg holding a 49-20 advantage. The Tigers have won the last four meetings, with the most recent a 69-67 win in the 1994 Wittenberg/Jaycee Classic. In tournament action, Ohio Northern crushed Wittenberg 80-52 in a 1982 regional game, while Wittenberg bested the Polar Bears, 59-51, in a 1980 regional game on its home court en route to a third place finish overall.
* * *
Wittenberg University's Ryan Taylor has been named the North Coast Athletic Conference men's basketball Player of the Year and Tigers Head Coach Bill Brown earned the conference's Coach of the Year award, it was announced Monday.
Taylor, a 6-foot-5 senior forward from Waynesfield, Ohio, is leading the Tigers in scoring for the third consecutive season at 16.3 points per game. He ranks ninth on Wittenberg's all-time scoring list and 15th on the NCAC's scoring list with 1,414 career points. Taylor is also fourth in the 2000-01 NCAA Division III rankings in three-point field goal percentage (.493) and has 73 three-point field goals, which puts him second on the Wittenberg single season list.
Brown is being honored as NCAC Coach of the Year for the third time. He was first honored in 1986 at Kenyon, and then he took home the hardware in his first season at Wittenberg in 1994. Brown guided the Tigers to a 24-3 overall record and their first NCAC regular season title and NCAA Division III tournament berth since 1997.
Brown has a record of 180-46 (.796) in eight years at Wittenberg and a career mark of 240-146 (.622) in 14 seasons as a college head coach, including one year at the College of Wooster in 1982-83 and five at Kenyon College (1983-88). His teams have compiled a 10-4 record in four appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament, won four outright NCAC titles (1994, '96, '97, 2001) and one conference tournament title (1996).