Into the madness they go.
The players and coaches on the Hillsdale College men's basketball team are spending their Spring Break in snowy Michigan, but there's no place else they'd rather be. That's because the Chargers are one of eight teams in the Midwest Region to qualify for the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament. This is Hillsdale's fifth all-time apperance at the NCAA Tournament, adding 2018 to a list that includes 1995, 2001, 2002 and 2012.
Hillsdale is the #5 seed in this year's regional and will face #4 seed Lake Superior State University at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. Other quarterfinal matchups include: #1 Ferris State vs. #8 Ohio Dominican, #2 Bellarmine vs. #7 Truman and #3 Findlay vs. #6 Drury. All regional games will be played at Ferris State fom Saturday through Tuesday.
The Chargers are 21-9 on the season and are coming off a run through the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament that saw them reach the championship game, where they fell to red-hot Ohio Dominican. Along the way, the Chargers deployed their conference-best defense in defeating Alderson Broaddus 71-59 and Lake Erie 75-63. All season long, Hillsdale has played superior team defense, and finished the regular season allowing a G-MAC-best 65.4 points per game. When it is playing well, Hillsdale dictates the flow of the game, does a great job on its defensive switches and takes control of its defensive boards, rarely allowing teams offensive rebounds or easy looks at the basket. The Chargers simply work hard on defense, helping and recovering quickly and effectively.
On offense Hillsdale features good balance with top scorers Stedman Lowry, Nick Czarnowski and Ryan Badowski all averaging between 12-14 points per game. Badowski has really upped his game in recent weeks, scoring a career-high 36 points in a win over Ohio Valley Feb. 17, then scoring 28 in a G-MAC Tournament semifinal win over Lake Erie on March 2. He is aggressive at taking the ball to the basket and uses his strength to either finish layups or draw fouls. He's shooting 41 percent on 3-point baskets and 84 percent from the free throw line, making him a difficult cover for any defense.
Lowry is one of the program's all-time best 3-point shooters. He's made 83 this season and has 292 in his career, putting him just three away from second place on the program's all-time list. He is as capable as anyone playing in this tournament of scoring tons of points in a short amount of time with his shooting, and his teammates' ability to screen and make accurate passes as he curls into shooting position. The wing duo of Badowski and Lowry will tax any defense trying to guard out to the 3-point line.
Complementing the outside shooting of Badowski and Lowry is the imposing presence of Czarnowski in the interior. He, along with Lowry, were named Second-Team All-G-MAC. He averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds a game while shooting 54 percent from the field. If teams extend their defense out too far to guard Lowry and Badowski, that opens up room for Czarnowski to work inside, giving Hillsdale an ideal inside-outside offensive combination.
Lake Superior State (24-7) offers a stiff challenge to the Chargers in the regional quarterfinal. The Lakers were the runner-up in last week's GLIAC Tournament and rank second in that conference in scoring, field goal percentage, turnover margin, points allowed and opponents' rebounds while leading the GLIAC in 3-point field goal percentage and steals per game. LSSU has tough guards and big men and have few weaknesses for opponents to exploit. Hillsdale and Lake Superior State are 2-2 versus one another over the past two years. They last met in the postseason in the first round of the 2016 GLIAC Tournament, which resulted in a 97-73 Charger win in Sault Ste. Marie. This is the first-ever NCAA Tournament matchup between these programs.