GPAC postseason picture: Where do DWU basketball teams stand as season winds down?
Sizing up the GPAC playoff picture with four games to go in the season
MITCHELL — The regular season is winding down in the Great Plains Athletic Conference basketball season and a lot remains uncertain.
Both Dakota Wesleyan teams have a lot to play for with four games left until the GPAC tournament.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the storylines in the final two weeks of the regular season, with a brief look toward the national tournament.
From wire-to-wire, Dordt has dominated the GPAC this season.
With four games left, the Defenders, who are currently ranked as the No. 4 team in the country, have just one loss all season — a Jan. 11 stumble at Doane.
Going into the final four games of the season with a 17-1 record in the GPAC and 23-1 mark overall, Dordt is three games ahead of Jamestown for first place in the GPAC and the Defenders have already taken the Jimmies down once this season. A win over Jamestown on Feb. 18 secures the No. 1 seed, but the Defenders can clinch it before the season finale should they win two of their three games before that against Mount Marty, Doane or Northwestern.
Dordt is charging toward the top seed in the GPAC tournament and is a virtual lock for the NAIA tournament no matter how its regular season and the conference tournament conclude.
In the middle
Behind Dordt is a cluster of teams all vying for positioning in the tournament.
The gap from Jamestown at No. 2 to Concordia and Northwestern, which are tied for fourth, is two games, with Dakota Wesleyan just one game back of that in sixth.
With the top four seeds landing at least one home game in the GPAC tournament, there’s still a lot to be determined with four games left for each team.
Of the six teams behind Dordt, DWU and Jamestown have two of the more difficult schedules remaining, with the Jimmies taking on Morningside and Briar Cliff on the road and hosting Dordt, while DWU hosts Northwestern, Morningside and Concordia during its final four games.
Each of the six teams in the grouping of No. 2 through No. 7 plays at least two of the other teams in the grouping during the final four games. Regardless of the outcomes, though, the top seven are all cemented in the tournament already, while Doane has a two-game lead on Hastings for the No. 8 seed.
What it means for DWU
Dakota Wesleyan’s fate remains firmly in its own hands.
The Tigers have already secured a spot in the GPAC tournament and are currently in sixth place in the GPAC at 11-7 in the conference and 17-7 overall. The Tigers can finish as high as second but as low as seventh. If DWU wins out, the lowest the Tigers can finish is fourth, meaning they would host a first-round matchup in the GPAC tournament.
Outside of Concordia, Northwestern and Morningside — the three programs within one game of the Tigers in the standings — DWU also plays Midland, which is 3-20 and 1-17 in GPAC play this season.
As of now, DWU would take on Briar Cliff on the road in the first round of the GPAC tournament. The two teams split the pair of contests they played this year, each winning away from home.
How DWU finishes could help the Tigers' outlook for the NAIA tournament. As of Jan. 28, the Tigers had an RPI ranking of 45 and was seventh in the NAIA's North Central Area Ranking Committee, which helps rank at-large teams in sections of the country.
Current GPAC women’s tournament bracket with four games remaining
No. 8 Doane (13-11, 7-11 GPAC) at No. 1 Dordt (23-1, 17-1 GPAC)
No. 5 Concordia (16-8, 12-6 GPAC) at No. 4 Northwestern (17-7, 12-6 GPAC)
No. 6 Dakota Wesleyan (17-7, 11-7 GPAC) at No. 3 Briar Cliff (17-7, 13-5 GPAC)
No. 7 Morningside (15-9, 10-8 GPAC) at No. 2 Jamestown (19-5, 14-4 GPAC)
In the hunt: Hastings, 9-15 overall, 5-13 GPAC.
Clustered at the top
Similarly to the women’s side, a cluster of five teams is separated by three games. Jamestown currently sits atop of the GPAC at 14-3, two and a half games ahead of Dordt and Morningside, which are tied for second at 11-5, but after that comes chaos.
Dordt and Morningside are a game up on fourth-place Northwestern, and the Raiders sit a game and a half ahead of Concordia, while Concordia is a half game up on Dakota Wesleyan. Even further down, DWU is a game up on Doane, meaning there’s a four-game separation from the No. 2 team in the GPAC and the No. 7 team.
Both Hastings and Briar Cliff are tied for the No. 8 spot at 6-10, while Mount Marty is still mathematically alive at 5-12 in the GPAC and 9-16 overall.
What it means for DWU
Though the Tigers are in a good position, Dakota Wesleyan is not a guarantee for the GPAC tournament yet.
While the Tigers would be in as the No. 6 seed if the season ended Monday, a remaining schedule that features three of the top five teams in the GPAC presents a difficult stretch to end the season.
At 8-8 in conference play, the Tigers are a game up on Doane and two games ahead of Hastings and Briar Cliff, which are tied for eighth. DWU has to take on Morningside, Northwestern and Concordia during their final four games — the third-, fourth- and fifth-place teams in the GPAC, respectively. The Tigers also have a tilt against Midland, which is in last place at 3-14 in the conference.
Winning-out would put DWU at 12-8, and while it wouldn’t guarantee the Tigers the opportunity to host a tournament game, it’s DWU’s best shot at doing so.
Losing out, though, could slide DWU out of the tournament, but it would take the winner of the Hastings-Briar Cliff game to win one of their final three games, and the loser of the game to win two of their final three.
Current GPAC men’s tournament bracket with four games remaining
No. 8 Hastings (13-11, 6-10 GPAC) at No. 1 Jamestown (22-3, 14-3 GPAC)
No. 5 Concordia (15-10, 9-8 GPAC) at No. 4 Northwestern (17-7, 10-6 GPAC)
No. 6 Dakota Wesleyan (12-12, 8-8 GPAC) at No. 3 Morningside (17-6, 11-5 GPAC)
No. 7 Doane (10-14, 7-9 GPAC) at No. 2 Dordt (19-5, 11-5 GPAC)
In the hunt: Briar Cliff, 12-11 overall, 6-10 GPAC; Mount Marty 9-16 overall, 5-12 GPAC.