DWU men's basketball team starts crucial GPAC run tonightDakota Wesleyan men’s first-year basketball coach Shane Murphy said he doesn’t usually let the expectations of others bother him much.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Dakota Wesleyan men’s first-year basketball coach Shane Murphy said he doesn’t usually let the expectations of others bother him much.
He said the expectations he has for his team are far too important.
Today, Dakota Wesleyan travels to Sioux Center, Iowa, to play Dordt. The game is the first of 10 remaining Great Plains Athletic Conference games the Tigers have on their schedule before the conference’s postseason tournament starts Feb. 22.
In order to reach the goals Murphy said he’s set for his team, it will need to find some consistency during a crucial stretch of conference games, he said.
“We’ve had some pretty good wins, but we’ve also had some places where we’ve stubbed our toes a little bit, too,” Murphy said. “We still need to improve, I think. But we’re on the right track. We just have to continue to get better here down the stretch run.”
Through eight games of the Great Plains Athletic Conference season, Murphy’s team is sitting in sixth place in the 12-team conference with a 4-4 record. Northwestern leads the GPAC with a 7-1 record.
The Tigers have picked up impressive non-conference wins against Black Hills State and NAIA Division I Xavier this year. They’ve also lost key conference matchups against Northwestern, Sioux Falls, Morningside and Concordia.
Dordt is 2-4 in conference play. After today’s game, the Tigers host Concordia Sunday at the Corn Palace before traveling to Morningside Jan. 19. They also play USF, Northwestern and Briar Cliff in key conference games before the regular season is complete. Including tonight, half of DWU’s remaining schedule is against the top of the conference and the other five games are against the bottom half of the conference.
“There’s still a lot of opportunity for us,” said Murphy, who has already spent seven years in the GPAC with the University of Sioux Falls from 2001 to 2008. “For me, our expectation was to put the team together and grow as the year went on and have something to say at the end of the year when it came to the conference race.
“I still think we’re in a position to do that, so my expectation is that we’re still working toward that goal of winning the conference title.”
To start the season, Murphy inherited a team that won the conference’s regular season and postseason titles last year. Former coach John Hemenway led the Tigers to the GPAC regular season title with a 16-2 record last season. Hemenway guided the Tigers to four straight GPAC winning seasons after his inaugural year at DWU in 2005, when DWU went 7-11 in conference play. Last year the Tigers started 4-2 in conference play before winning 14 straight conference games to end the season.
Monday, Murphy’s team emerged into the national rankings at No. 25 in NAIA Division II. It was the first time DWU’s been in the national poll since it was No. 21 in the Nov. 29 poll.
The Tigers are one of four GPAC teams in the poll. Briar Cliff is No. 7, USF is No. 19 and Northwestern is No. 22.
“This league is crazy,” Murphy said. “The best way to take care of this is to take each and every game as the most important one, and that’s the one right in front of you.”