The defending Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champions go into the post-season tournament as the No. 3 seed this Friday at Manchester College and will be looking to advance to their second straight NCAA Div. III National Tournament.
The Anderson University Ravens (17-8, 13-5 HCAC) will play No. 6 seed Bluffton (15-10, 8-10 HCAC) in the second game on Friday night at Stauffer-Wolfe Arena in North Manchester. With a victory, AU would advance to the semifinals on Saturday against No. 2 Hanover (18-6, 14-4 HCAC). The championship game is set for Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Anderson swept the season series with Bluffton, winning at O.C. Lewis Gymnasium 76-68 and at Bluffton 86-78. The Ravens enter the tournament winning seven of their last 10 games.
Last year, the Ravens lost to Defiance in the HCAC post-season tournament championship game after winning the regular season. They received an at-large bid to the NCAA Div. III tournament and beat No. 6 St. Thomas in the first round before falling to Carthage in the second round.
Their 23 wins were the third most in school history and with three wins this weekend they can become the second class to post back-to-back 20-win seasons. The other was the 1979 and 1980 teams, which both won 22 games.
"You know each other so well, it comes down to who executes the best," said AU coach Tom Slyder. "You really have to take away (Bluffton's) inside game and we have to get defensive rebounds and be solid defensively inside the 3-point line."
The Ravens are led by junior Brock Morrison, who averages 13 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Senior Andrew Jones is second on the team in scoring (11.6 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.1 rpg).
Also averaging double figures are freshman Jarrin Forte (11.5 ppg), sophomore Phil Hogan (10.8 ppg) and senior Andrew Bowman (10.8 ppg). Senior Gabe Miller is at 9.4 points per game and leads the team in assists (109) and steals (43).
"To play three games in three days, we're probably going to need to go deep into the bench," said Slyder. "We have four seniors that have great experience in tournament play in the past and it aspires them to play well."
The four seniors are part of a class that ranks 8th on the career wins list (70-38) and has the most since the class of 1982 won a school-record 81 games. They also rank 8th in winning percentage at .648. The class of 1964 is first with a .732 winning percentage. The Ravens have advanced to the NCAA/NAIA national tournament four times in school history (1939, 1958, 1961 and 2010).
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.