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Tiger offense will face tough opening round test

The Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team has a new cast of characters but it's back on the big stage once again. The Tigers graduated three impactful seniors from last season's national tournament team but qualified for the NAIA Divis...

The Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team has a new cast of characters but it's back on the big stage once again.

The Tigers graduated three impactful seniors from last season's national tournament team but qualified for the NAIA Division II men's basketball tournament for the third-straight season.

"It is a just a huge testament to our guys this year for getting back there and winning their way in as an at-large," DWU head coach Matt Wilber said. "Especially when we had so much turnover and playing a lot of new guys and fresh faces."

One of the familiar faces is lone senior Tate Martin, who will be playing in his third-straight national tourney.

"It is just exciting," said Martin, a Mitchell native. "We have a pretty young group. We have a bunch of freshman on our roster. It is really exciting for them."

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With Martin running the show, the Tigers are again one of the top offensive teams in the country. They will have a big test in the first round as tonight's 9:45 p.m. tipoff will pit high-scoring Dakota Wesleyan against defensively strong College of Idaho.

The Tigers (23-9) are fifth in the nation in scoring, averaging 90.8 points per game. The Yotes (23-9) are sixth in the nation in points allowed and give up 68.9 points a contest.

DWU is somewhat familiar with the Yotes. The Tigers defeated College of Idaho in the national quarterfinals two seasons ago.

"I know they are aggressive and I know their defense is kind of their signature," Wilber said. "They hold teams down. They create a ton of turnovers. So we are going to have our hands full."

While the Tigers lead the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, the Yotes are among the leaders in steals. The College of Idaho is fourth in total steals (309) and fifth in turnover margin (4.531).

Wilber said the Tigers will have to play with poise against the scrappy Yotes.

"You are going to have to play with some composure," Wilber said. "With us going down there with such a different group, it is just kind of how you are going to handle that. That first game, you just don't know what is going to happen and you have to make some shots in that gym, that is usually what it comes down to."

The two teams both feature a pair of playmaking point guards. Martin is second in the nation in assists per game and is the Great Plains Athletic Conference player of the year. College of Idaho's Emanuel Morgan ranks third in the nation in steals and is the Cascade Collegiate Conference defensive player of the year.

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Morgan stands just 5-foot-5, but the rest of the starting unit is big. College of Idaho also starts 6-foot-4 Aitor Zubizarreta, 6-foot-5 Roosevelt Adams, 6-foot-7 Joey Nebeker and 6-foot-7 Aziz Leeks.

The winner of the DWU-College of the Idaho game, will play the winner of No. 1 Union (Kentucky) and No. 8 Aquinas (Michigan) at 9:15 p.m. on Friday in the second round.

But Wilber is stressing to his team not to look past tonight's game.

"I tell our guys this, we are going there to play a game," Wilber said. "We are not in a tournament right now. The rest of that tournament is blacked out and it's just us and the College of Idaho and that's all the further we will be looking ahead."

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