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November 1, 2012
For the first time in 20 seasons, Hoosier fans get to root on the No. 1 ranked team tonight against an opponent at Assembly Hall. The Herculean task of taking on the nation's top-rated team goes to Indiana Wesleyan, an NAIA program. The Wildcats will serve as Indiana's only exhibition opponent before the true season opener for Indiana on November 9th at home versus Bryant. Tip-off tonight is at 7 p.m. ET.
Fans not able to attend the game will only be able to watch it live on BTN.com, the premium "All-Access" channel of the Big Ten Network. Click here for the link to that live video stream and keep in mind there will be a fee. A rebroadcast of the game will be shown on the Big Ten Network channel but not till 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 6th.
Located in Marion, the Wildcats have their own tradition on the court. Indiana Wesleyan (IWU) has now won four consecutive Mid-Central Conference (MCC) titles and open up the year ranked No. 4 in the NAIA Division II preseason poll.
If you are someone who grows up in Indiana and follows basketball you understand the nostalgia that is involved with Assembly Hall and the history that they have," said Indiana Wesleyan head coach Greg Tonagel. "For us it is an exciting opportunity, a great recruiting opportunity, and a great marketing tool for our school as a whole. We want to get a lot of our alumni involved and people who have watched our program from afar can come in and join us for this exciting event."
The Wildcats know a little about trying to live up to the top ranking, having achieved that honor last season after a 9-0 start. It was the school's first ever No. 1 ranking in NAIA Division II. IWU struggled, however, after the lofty ranking, going 4-9 over one stretch before recovering late to win seven of the final eight regular season games and earn a share of the MCC title with Grace (Ind.) College. The school finished with a 21-12 record and a No. 16 ranking in the final NAIA poll.
Tonagel is heading into his eighth year as head coach of IWU. His name may be familiar to Hoosier fans as he played for Homer Drew at Valparaiso and before that led La Porte to the IHSAA state finals in 1997, the final year of single class basketball in Indiana.
With the bulk of his team returning including his top three scorers, Tonagel shouldn't be surprised by the No. 4 preseason ranking. In fact the Wildcats have already shown how tough they should be this season as on Tuesday night they opened the season at home with an impressive, 91-74 victory over No. 14-ranked Saint Xavier (Ill.). Jordan Weidner, Aaron Martin and Patrick Hopkins combined to score 75 of the the Wildcat points led by the 6-foot-2 Weidner's 28-point night. Martin was scorching from the outside, knocking down 7-for-9 from beyond the arc in his 28-point effort. The Wildcats shot 63.6 percent from the floor in the victory, quickly overcoming a four-point halftime deficit.
A year ago Weidner and Hopkins tied for team high scoring with a 14.8 ppg average. Hopkins, a Kokomo native who checks in at 6-foot-7, 230-pounds, led the team in rebounding with 8.7 boards per game. Martin was the team's top outside threat last year and at 6-foot-5 brings nice size to the guard spot. The other guard to watch is 6-foot-3 George Jones IV. The South Bend Clay product averaged 10.6 points last year and started all 33 games.
In Tuesday's opener, Tonagel went really small at the beginning, starting 5-foot-11 sophomore D.J. Bettinger and 6-foot-5 Whitko alum Zac Vandewater. There is a bit of size to turn to on the bench in 6-foot-7, 245-pound Parker Stouffer. He averaged 7.5 ppg last season and had five points and four boards off the bench in the opener. 6-foot-9 sophomore Tyler Greathouse did not play on Tuesday. He was a regular off the bench last season and the Columbus North product turned down MAC and Missouri Valley offers to play for IWU. He's not only player on this roster to turn down NCAA Division I opportunities.
Indiana associate head coach Steve McClain has scouting duties for tonight's game and previewed the Wildcats yesterday.
"They scored 91 points last night, averaged 75 points last year, so they're a team that plays uptempo, run a lot of motion, a lot back cutting, ball screening," said McClain. "They have four returning starters from last year yet one of those guys didn't start last night."
As mentioned this will be Indiana's only exhibition game. For the second straight year the team has opted for a "secret scrimmage" against another Division I school. The year that reportedly was or will be Wisconsin-Green Bay, coached by former Tom Crean staff member Brian Wardle.
McClain believes Indiana chose wisely with tonight's opponent.
"What you want out of an exhibition team is a team that has a purpose, and this team has a purpose, no question about it," said McClain.
Expected IWU starters and key reserves with 2011-12 stats: