PREVIEW: NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Elite Eight - Semifinals

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - The Saint Anselm College men's basketball team will battle the undefeated squad from Northwest Missouri State University on Thursday in the 2019 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Elite Eight Semifinals. The games will tip at 6 p.m. CST (7 p.m. EST) at the Ford Center in downtown Evansville.

Saint Anselm (26-5), ranked 20th in the nation by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, won its first-ever game in the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Elite Eight on Wednesday. The Hawks downed the fifth-ranked (and fourth-seeded) Sharks from Nova Southeastern University by a 91-81 margin.

Northwest Missouri State (36-0), the top team in NCAA Division II according to both the NABC and D2SIDA National Polls, clawed its way to a 55-51 victory over eighth-seeded Mercyhurst in Wednesday's quarterfinals. The Bearcats are the lone Division II team remaining without a loss on the season and are in search of the fifth "perfect season" in the history of Division II.

Saint Anselm, making its seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, became the first East Region institution to secure an Elite Eight victory since 2012 (Stonehill, W 91-90 over West Liberty). The Hawks are in pursuit of its first-ever National Championship in men's basketball, having last won the East Region title in the 1999-00 season.

SAINT ANSELM QUICK HITS 

  • Against Nova Southeastern, the Hawks poured home 16 three-point baskets in the win, a season-high mark. Saint Anselm also finished the game with the second-most treys in any Elite Eight game, coming up shy of the all-time record of 23 (Troy vs. Southern N.H., 1993).
  • Head Coach Keith Dickson, in his 33rd season on the Hilltop, has now matched the all-time Northeast-10 Conference record for coaching victories (643-333). He matches long-time Saint Rose bench boss Brian Beaury, who guided the Golden Knights to a 643-325 record across 32 seasons.
  • Saint Anselm was one of only two schools (Nova Southeastern) to be sending both of its basketball programs to the Elite Eight this season. In all-time NCAA Division II history, it is only the 11th and 12th times this has occurred.
  • The Hawks toppled the 2017 East Region champions from Saint Thomas Aquinas College in convincing fashion on Tuesday, Mar. 19, handing the Spartans a 74-49 loss in Stoutenburgh Gymnasium to claim the 2019 regional championship.
  • Saint Anselm is in pursuit of its first National Championship in men's basketball, having last claimed an East Region title in the 1999-00 season.
  • The Hawks have made 22 overall and seven consecutive NCAA Division II Championships, including this year's appearance. In all-time postseason play at the NCAA level, Saint Anselm owns a 18-24 record (.429).
  • In the Hawks' lone NCAA Elite Eight appearance in 2000, Saint Anselm posted an 81-61 loss to Metropolitan State, now MSU Denver, who went on to win the Division II title that same season as the No. 1 seed out of the Central Region.
  • Saint Anselm enters the contest ranked 20th in NCAA Division II by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) in its most recent poll. In the D2SIDA National Media Poll, the Hawks jumped to 11th in the country despite a loss to Southern Conn. St. in the opening round of the conference playoffs.
  • When playing at home in Stoutenburgh Gymnasium this year, the Hawks are a dominant 13-2, shooting over 50% from the floor (450-for-896, .502) while limiting opponents to exactly 40% (390-for-975, .400). Since the start of the 2012-13 season, Saint Anselm is 82-17 when playing on its home court.
  • The Hawks had won 18 consecutive home games between this season and last prior to losing to Le Moyne, 69-65, on Jan. 26. The most recent home loss came to Southern Conn. St. in the NE10 Quarterfinals on Mar. 3.
  • Saint Anselm had previously never hosted an NCAA Division II East Region Championship at home in Stoutenburgh Gymnasium. In years past, the Hawks were awarded the hosting rights and played at the Southern New Hampshire University Fieldhouse.
  • Saint Anselm is 6-10 all-time against nationally-prominent opponents ranked fifth or higher. The team's most recent victory over said opponents came on Nov. 24, 2009, a 72-69 win over No. 5 Bentley.
  • The Hawks have downed the top-ranked team in NCAA Division II on one occasion. In that contest played on Feb. 25, 1989, the Hawks handed Bentley a 75-70 defeat.
  • The Hawks were ranked as high as fourth in NCAA Division II this season by the NABC, a program record. Saint Anselm opened its season as the No. 6 team in the land, the highest by any Hawks men's basketball team since a No. 5 ranking on Feb. 26, 1996.
  • Saint Anselm had a 10-0 start to its season, including six victories against NE10 opponents. The Hawks, prior to their first loss of the year at regionally-ranked Daemen, were one of only nine Division II teams without a setback.
  • Saint Anselm has overcome a deficit in 23 of its 31 games on the season and has rebounded from a double-digit deficit on four occasions, winning each of those contests. The Hawks' largest comeback of the year came against Jefferson, trailing by 15 points and winning in overtime by a 79-75 margin in the season's third game.
  • The Hawks have combined for 95 shot rejections in 2018-19, the second-most in a single season. Averaging 3.1 blocks per game, the Hawks' all-time record for denials in one season is 103 (2006-07).
  • The Saint Anselm defensive corps has yielded only a 41.0% (831-for-2,025) field goal percentage, the fourth-lowest mark in team history. From three-point distance, Hawks opponents have combined to shoot 32.9% (237-for-720), the third-lowest all-time figure.
  • Hawks opponents through Mar. 19 have combined for a 488-354 (58.0%), the 22nd-strongest schedule in NCAA Division II when sorted by winning percentage. Northwest Missouri State owns the 15th-best opponent schedule (58.2%).
  • Saint Anselm entered the Elite Eight ranked fifth nationally in defensive rebounds per game (29.90) and 15th in scoring margin (11.7). Within the NE10, the Hawks led all member institutions in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.31), field goal percentage defense (41.0), free throws made (460), rebound margin (4.0), scoring margin (11.7), scoring offense (83.1), total rebounds (1,165), total rebounds per game (38.83) and won-lost percentage (83.3).

BEARCAT BITES

  • Northwest Missouri State enters with a 36-0 record, the program's best start in its history. The Bearcats have played in 19 NCAA Division II tournaments.
  • The Bearcats are tangling with a nationally-ranked opponent for only the third time this season. Earlier in the year, the Bearcats downed No. 13 Ferris State, 100-86, and later toppled No. 13 Southern Nazarene by a 70-59 margin in the Central Region tournament.
  • Across all three NCAA divisions, the Bearcats own the longest winning streak in neutral venues, claiming victory in 30 consecutive games. One of those victories came in the 2017 NCAA Division II Championship, their first.
  • Senior Joey Witthus earned All-America honors from the NABC earlier in the week. A transfer from NCAA Division I Minnesota State, he leads the team with 21.2 points per game. He has seven games this season where he has played 40 minutes per game and leads his conference with 109 treys. He is also shooting 85.4% from the charity stripe.
  • Freshman Trevor Hudgins was the MIAA's Freshman of the Year, scoring 18.7 points and handing out 5.4 assists per game. He enters the game on Thursday with 673 points scored this year.
  • Sophomore Ryan Hawkins leads the team in double-doubles with 10 this season, having reached double-digit rebound totals in 13 contests. He set the single-season rebounding record for the Bearcats with 313 this year.
  • Freshman guard Diego Bernard is averaging 11.8 points per game as a freshman, reaching double figures in point scoring in 26 of his 35 games played.
STUDENT-ATHLETE NOTABLES
 
  • Senior co-captain Tim Guers (Langhorne, Pa.) was named the Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional, finishing the three-game home stand with 17 points per game, falling just shy of a double-double with 9.7 rebounds per game and a team-best 17 assists.
  • To date, Guers has matched a career-high with 21.8 points per game while notching personal-best figures of 7.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per contest. He is also shooting 48.4% (222-for-459) from the floor and 44.4% (71-for-160) from beyond the arc, both career-high marks.
  • A two-time Northeast-10 Player of the Year recipient, the three-time First Team All-NE10 selection has scored at least 20 points in all but four of his last 18 games played. He has 54 career games where he has scored at least 20 points.
  • Guers became only the seventh student-athlete in league history to earn Player of the Year honors twice and the first since the 2012-13 season. Additionally, Guers is one of only 14 student-athletes in conference history to earn three career First Team All-Conference selections.
  • With 2,304 career points, Guers is third in all-time Northeast-10 Conference history in point scoring and recently passed Mario Elie from American Int'l who notched 2,124 points from 1981-85. Against Nova Southeastern, Guers passed Jon Cronin (Stonehill, 1988-92, 2,301).
  • Guers' 38.0 minutes per game is tied for the most minutes played in the NE10 and, entering the Elite Eight, he was ranked 11th in NCAA Division II in minutes played.
  • Averaging 19.0 points per game across a career that spans a team-record 121 games, Guers ranks third all-time in team history in scoring average (min. 40 games) and is the program's all-time leader in points (2,304), field goals made (789), field goals attempted (1,701), minutes per game (36.0) and minutes played (4,361).
  • Senior co-captain Cody Ball, a native of nearby Londonderry, N.H., is averaging 13.7 points per game across a personal-best 33.8 minutes played per game in his fourth year on the Hilltop.
  • Ball was a Second Team All-Conference selection, gathering 5.1 rebounds per game, on average, while dishing out 3.1 assists per contest to set season-best marks in those statistics.
  • He has made at least one three-point basket in each of his previous 13 games and at least two in his last seven contests. He was selected as the Northeast-10 Tournament Most Valuable Player in 2016-17, helping Saint Anselm to its most-recent league title.
  • Ball ranks fifth in the NE10 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9), fifth in three-point field goal percentage (41.0) and seventh in three-point field goals per game (2.6). He has also handed out 95 assists, the 13th most in the conference.
  • Sophomore Chris Paul (Highland Mills, N.Y.), the Hawks' second leading scorer at 14.5 points per game, secured Honorable Mention honors in the conference's annual awards announcement.
  • Paul, an All-Rookie Team pick last year, has pulled down 6.2 rebounds per game that includes a career-high mark of 1.6 offensive boards per game.
  • Paul has tallied double-digit points in six of his last seven games with the outlying contest, a nine-point effort against New Haven in the NCAA East Region semifinals, limited due to foul trouble.
  • Paul's 52.0% (172-for-331) field goal percentage is the eighth-best figure in the league and his free throw mark of 78.6% (99-for-126) is the 15th-best in the conference. He has poured home 172 field goals, the ninth-most by an NE10 student-athlete.
  • Sophomore Gustav Suhr-Jessen (Virum, Denmark) has nearly doubled his points per game output from a season prior, recording 12.1 as a sophomore along with 7.1 rebounds per contest.
  • After making 17 of his first 46 career three-point attempts as a first-year member of the roster, Suhr-Jessen has converted from beyond the arc at a 42.3% (47-for-111) clip and has also improved his free throw proficiency (64.3% in 2017-18 to 71.3% in 2018-19).
  • Junior Danny Evans (Leeds, United Kingdom), a transfer from NCAA Division I Maine, is averaging 8.9 points per game and is doling out 2.2 assists per contest. His 4.5 rebounds is fifth on the Hawks roster.
  • Sophomore Alonzo Jackson (Medford, Mass.) has thrown up 27 blocks on the year, falling three shy of tying the single-season record set by Branimir Zeko '10 as a senior. In just 13.5 minutes per game, Jackson is averaging 5.4 points per game and shooting 71% (44-for-62) from the floor.
  • Freshman Miles Tention (Palo Alto, Calif.) has seen regular action for Saint Anselm off the bench, posting 5.5 points as a first-year member of the roster. He went off for a career-high 23 points against Saint Michael's on Feb. 23 in the squad's regular-season finale.
  • Sophomore Spencer Cline (Mason, Ohio) and freshman Joey Belli (Wayne, N.J.) average 3.0 and 1.7 points per game, respectively. Belli is 9-for-18 (50%) from beyond the arc to date, having played only 104 minutes across 17 games as a freshman.
MEET THE COACHES
 
  • Dickson is in the midst of his 33rd season on the Hilltop. One of the winningest coaches in NCAA Division II history, Dickson enters play with a 643-333 overall record.
  • Dickson is one victory away from setting the all-time Northeast-10 record for coaching victories since the formation of the NE10 in 1980. Named NE10 Coach of the Year following this season, he previously was named the league's top coach in 1989-90, 1994-95, 1995-96 and 2012-13.
  • Dickson earned his 600th career victory on Nov. 26, 2017 against LIU Post, becoming only the 92nd coach in the history of NCAA men's basketball across all divisions to reach that milestone.
  • Since his selection as Head Coach prior to the 1986-87 season, Dickson has led the Hawks to eight Northeast-10 Conference Championships and 19 appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
  • Dickson was inducted into the college's Athletics Hall of Fame (2003) while earning the Walter A. Smith Coaches Award at the New Hampshire Parade of Champions Banquet in February of 2003.
  • Dickson took the reins of the program in the 1986-87 season and since that time has enjoyed extraordinary success, resulting in 13 Northeast-10 Tournament Championship game appearances and eight tournament championships, which are both league records. 
  • Under Dickson, the Hawks have never gone more than three years without an NCAA berth, and are currently riding a run of seven-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In addition, his teams have posted a winning mark in 24 of the last 27 seasons.
  • On a regional scale, Dickson has copped New England Basketball Coaches Association Division II Coach of the Year award and has also been named the National Association of Basketball Coaches Northeast District Coach of the Year.
  • Dickson played college basketball at the University of New Hampshire from 1975-79. As a point guard, Dickson started four years for the Wildcats and graduated with 1,202 career points, at the time placing him as the school's third-highest all-time scorer.
  • Dickson's first coaching stop came as an assistant at Biscayne in Florida for one year before heading to Bentley for a one-year stint with the Falcons. He joined Saint Anselm as an assistant in 1985-86 and a year later was named as head coach.
  • Northwest Missouri State is guided by Ben McCollum, who ranks sixth among active NCAA Division II head coaches in terms of winning percentage. Across a 10-year career with the Bearcats, he has registered an overall record of 239-75 (.761). Jim Crutchfield, the Head Coach of Nova Southeastern, leads the list with an .844 winning percentage (405-75).
  • McCollum led the Bearcats to four consecutive league tournament titles, the most in MIAA history.