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Dakota Wesleyan coach Matt Wilber doesn’t anticipate Tigers will qualify for nationals

The NAIA selection show is Thursday

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Koln Oppold (1) goes to the the basket as University of Jamestown's Mason Walters (33) and Brock Schrom (25) defend during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Feb. 20 at the Corn Palace.

For the first time in seven seasons, Matt Wilber said the Tigers will be on the outside looking in.

The Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team lost to Mount Marty, 64-58, in double overtime in Saturday’s GPAC semifinals. The loss dropped DWU’s record to 19-8 and it stacked the odds against it, said Wilber.

“Had it been the full 64 field, we would have been in the national tournament,” Wilber said. “This year, we are going to be on the outside looking in.”

Entering this season, NAIA merged its two basketball divisions into one division for the first time since 1991. Midway through this season, NAIA reduced the field size of both the men’s and women’s basketball championships from 64 to 48 teams due to COVID-related issues. On the men’s side, there are 37 automatic bids and 11 at-large selections. The NAIA selection show is 7 p.m. on Thursday.

“We are one team out of a number of teams -- 15 other teams -- that would have had a chance to go to the national tournament and experience that,” Wilber said. “We aren’t going to do that because of that decision and that’s tough. I know they have to make tough decisions and do that, but this is just really tough.”

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The Tigers appeared to be in good position midway through the season, but went 5-5 down the stretch. They finished 14-6 in the GPAC, which included a win at then-No. 8 Morningside College on Dec. 16. DWU also lost to the Mustangs at the Corn Palace, while it also split with tournament hopefuls Northwestern College and Jamestown University.

“That’s a national tournament team,” Wilber added about his team’s postseason résumé. “Sorry, that’s what it is. It’s a national tournament team and we are going to be on the outside looking in. I really don’t see a lot of justification for us not to be in the national tournament.”

Morningside College, the GPAC regular season champion, earned one of the GPAC’s two automatic bids into the NAIA tournament. The second bid is awarded to the postseason tournament champion, which will be either Northwestern College or Mount Marty.

This season, the NAIA opening rounds will change from 16, four-team tournaments per gender to eight, six-team (three-team pod) tournaments per gender.

Each opening round site will feature two, three-team pod tournaments (per gender) in which the No. 1 seed will receive a bye. The No. 2 and No. 3 seeds will play each other and will face the No. 1 seed in that pod for the championship.

The winner of that final game will go to the NAIA national championship final site in either Sioux City, Iowa (women) or Kansas City, Missouri (men). There will still be 16 teams that advance to the final sites.

The men’s opening round sites include: Alexandria, Louisiana; Crestview Hills, Kentucky; Lewiston, Idaho; Marion, Indiana; Montgomery, Alabama; Omaha, Nebraska; Park City, Kansas and Wichita, Kansas.

The women’s opening round sites include: Alexandria, Louisiana; Crestview Hills, Kentucky; Indianapolis, Indiana; Lakeland, Florida; Lewiston, Idaho; Omaha, Nebraska; Park City, Kansas and Wichita, Kansas.

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In 2022, the men’s and women’s championship will return to 64-team format with 16 regional opening round sites.

Notes: The postseason Great Plains Athletic Conference basketball awards will be released today.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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