HANOVER, Ind. – The quest for a national championship will begin for the Hanover men's basketball team this weekend in Atlanta, Ga., at Emory University.
The Panthers (22-6), winners in six of their last seven, will square off with LeTourneau (Texas) of the American Southwest Conference at 5:30 p.m., Friday, March 2, in the opening round of the NCAA Division III National Tournament. The winner will then face either No. 6 Emory or Berry (Ga.) at 7 p.m. the following night.
BACK IN THE BIG DANCE: This weekend will mark Hanover's second straight and eighth overall appearance in the NCAA Division III National Tournament. The Blue and Red have produced an 8-7 mark in tournament games since their first bid in 1995 and are coming off their deepest run in program history, advancing to the Sectional Championship (Elite Eight) in the 2016-17. Opening round games have been kind to the Panthers in the past, as the team is 4-1 in first round contests. The squad will also be looking to get out of the first weekend of the Big Dance and make its fourth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.
HEARTLAND'S UNDISPUTED CHAMPION: After splitting the HCAC regular season crown with Rose-Hulman and Mt. St. Joseph, the Panthers defeated both squads in the HCAC Tournament en route to a second consecutive championship and automatic bid into the national spectacle. Hanover has won back-to-back HCAC regular season and tournament championships for the first time since doing it three straight years from 2002-2005. The Blue and Red opened the 2017-18 tournament with a 10-point win over Bluffton and finished the regular season 14-4, giving them a 30-6 mark in league games since the start of last season.
FAILS NAMED HCAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Junior Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio) averaged just over 19 points per game in conference play as he was named the HCAC's Player of the Year earlier this week. Fails is currently averaging 18.2 points per game and has a pair of 30-point performances this season. He also garnered HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors after averaging 25.3 points and 4.3 assists, all while shooting 53 percent over three outings. Senior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.), 2016-17 HCAC Player of the Year, was named to the first team for 2017-18 and junior Nick White (New Albany, Ind.) picked up honorable mention accolades.
McKINNEY FINALIST FOR JOSTENS TROPHY: The awards kept piling in this week, as McKinney was selected a national finalist for the prestigious Jostens Trophy. The senior will continue through the review process, with a national selection committee of 30 or more individuals determining one male and female student-athlete to receive the award. The Jostens Trophy is presented to the outstanding NCAA Division III men's and women's basketball players that excel on the court, in the classroom and in the community.
HANOVER, LeTOURNEAU AMONG NATION'S STATISTICAL LEADERS: Both the Panthers and YellowJackets have produced some of the top statistical marks in NCAA Division III this season. Hanover ranks sixth in the country in two categories, field goal percentage (.509) and fewest fouls per game (14.0). The Blue and Red also possess a top 20 scoring defense, allowing just over 65 points per contest. An efficient offense along with the stifling defense has resulted in an average margin of victory of 12.0 points per game, which is good enough for 19th nationally.
LeTourneau (23-4) has relied on its offensive prowess to enjoy its second straight 20-win season. The YellowJackets are averaging 94.9 points per game, which leads the ASC and is ninth in Division III. The Blue and Gold have also surpassed the century mark in 10 games this year, including four of their past five outings.
Contact: Tyler Jester