The past few months have been setting the table for this weekend. The regular season is over. It’s time for the best teams in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to lace up and take to the hardwood.
Ladies and gents, it’s tourney time.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams for Webster University will compete this weekend as the top four teams in the SLIAC go head-to-head to determine who wins the conference and earns a berth to the NCAA D-III tournament.
This is familiar territory for Webster. The women’s team will be competing in the SLIAC tournament for the fourth consecutive year. The men’s team has appeared every year since the SLIAC adopted the four-team playoff formats in 2005.
The question now is whether they can win the SLIAC crown, and if so, how?
I’ve called more than a dozen games this season for The Galaxy. Allow me to provide my analysis and answer.
I’ll start with the women’s basketball team. The Gorloks hold the No. 2 seed in this year’s tournament and will face Eureka College (Ill.) in the opening round. These two teams have had some exhilarating battles this season, as the teams split the season series with each game being decided by 5 points or fewer.
The Eureka Red Devils have the top offense in the conference, led by the SLIAC’s top scorer, junior guard Caty Eeten. Defensively, the Red Devils limit second-chance opportunities for the Gorloks, leading the conference in defensive rebounding.
On the other hand, Eureka ranks sixth out of nine SLIAC teams in points allowed per game. This is also a team that is prone to turning the ball over as they average just fewer than 18 turnovers a game in SLIAC play. They do not create many turnovers on defense, either.
The Gorloks defeated Eureka in overtime earlier this year by exploiting these weaknesses. Webster created turnovers, forced the Red Devils to foul, and made free throws down the stretch. The biggest key for Webster will be to limit Eeten and sophomore forward Kelsey Shoemake who combined for 46 of the 69 points scored by the Red Devils when they defeated Webster earlier in the season.
Webster will need to keep these two players in check and stick to the game plan they had when they defeated Eureka in the regular season to come out on top.
The Webster men’s team snuck into the tournament as the No. 4 seed after Eureka defeated MacMurray College (Ill.) on Tuesday, Feb. 19 to eliminate the Highlanders’ playoff hopes. The Gorloks will take on the top-seeded Spalding University (Ky.) in the opening round. The Golden Eagles have been nothing short of dominant this season, with a conference record of 15-1. The Golden Eagles’ only loss was a road game against Eureka, and they only lost by 4 points.
The Golden Eagles have the top-ranked offense and defense in the SLIAC, averaging 81.3 points per game and allowing only 59.8. There really is not a weakness to the Golden Eagles’ game. They rank in the top three of every major team statistic in the conference.
Spalding will be without its top player, guard Dewhon McAfee, who tore his ACL earlier this month. Even without McAfee, the leading scorer in the SLIAC, Spalding has continued its winning ways.
To put it simply, there’s not much of a chance Webster can out-scheme Spalding in this game. It may sound obvious, but the best chance Webster has of winning is by outworking and outplaying Golden Eagles. The Gorloks will have to play their absolute best basketball to move on to the finals.