March 11, 2008
2007-08 Men's Basketball Review2007-08 Men's Basketball Review
The head coaches of the CCIW made the Augustana Vikings their pre-season choice to win the conference in 2007-08 due, in large part, to the return of their two 2007 second team All-CCIW players, Jordan Delp (Mt. Carroll HS, Mt. Carroll, Ill.) and Dain Swetalla (Pleasant Valley HS, Bettendorf, Iowa). Little did anyone know at the time that the Vikings would indeed capture their third straight league title, but without the services of team captain and emotional leader Delp.
After the early season loss of Delp, the team’s best perimeter offensive threat, to a ruptured Achilles tendon, head coach Grey Giovanine convinced his charges that they would have to become a collective unit and depend on their tenacious defense even more than in the past. Given his previous teams’ reputation for intense, physical defense, it was quite a challenge. This team embraced the challenge and, despite struggling on offense at times, still won the conference by two games over Wheaton and Illinois Wesleyan. By winning the outright league championship for the third year in a row, this year’s team put themselves in some elite company. It was the first time any CCIW team had won three straight undisputed regular season titles in 28 years. The great North Park teams, who won three straight national championships from 1978-80, were the last to do it. In addition, Augustana put them selves in position to go for a fourth straight outright title in 2008-09. That’s been done just once in league history.
The Vikings opened the season looking down the barrel at one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Pre-season #1-ranked Washington University highlighted the non-conference portion, which also included the top three 2007 finishers in the ultra-competitive Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as well as St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion Webster.
Augustana jumped out of the gate 3-0 including a thrilling 66-60 win over top-ranked Washington. The Vikings suffered a tough home loss to Wisconsin-LaCrosse when a potential game-winning three-pointer by Brett Wessels (Bettendorf HS, Bettendorf, Iowa) was waived off by the officials on an offensive foul. They rebounded, however, by winning six straight, including wins over local rival St. Ambrose and 13th-ranked Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Oshkosh’s home court. During that streak, in a 77-70 double overtime win at St. Norbert, the Vikings lost Delp, who was in the midst of one of his best games of the year with 22 points at the time.
Augustana closed the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 73-63 loss to third-ranked Wisconsin-Stevens Point to put their record at 9-2.
Grey Giovanine’s re-tooled Vikings entered CCIW play with just one player, Swetalla, who had started more than one CCIW game in his career. Junior Alex Washington (Wheeling HS, Wheeling, Ill.), who started a single conference game as a sophomore, was the only other Viking who had ever started a CCIW contest. Wessels, a junior transfer from the University of Iowa, sophomore Matt Pelton (Bloomington Central Catholic HS, Bloomington, Ill.) and junior Chandlor Collins (Thornridge HS, Dolton, Ill.) rounded out the Augustana starting five for the better part of the season.
After a two-and-a-half week layoff the Vikings opened CCIW play at North Park and, uncharacteristically, struggled down the stretch in a 67-58 loss. After home wins over 10th-ranked Elmhurst 74-72 and 18th-ranked Wheaton, 66-60, Augustana again faltered late in a 74-68 loss at Carthage.
That would be their last loss for a while as they ran off another six-game winning streak, highlighted by a 65-61 win at Illinois Wesleyan and 76-69 reversal over Carthage. In that game, sophomore Brian Larson (Pleasant Valley HS, Bettendorf, Iowa) got his only career start, filling in for an ailing Washington, and responded with 24 points, the second-highest single game total for the Vikings this year.
After falling on the road to a red-hot Wheaton team, 73-60, Augustana finished with a flourish. They won their final three CCIW contests including clinching at least a share of the conference championship against Illinois Wesleyan for the third year in a row. They clinched the outright title three nights later in the regular season finale at North Central. The clutch-shooting Pelton capped Augustana’s comeback by giving the Vikings a lead they’d never relinquish on a three-pointer with 1:06 left.
Augustana returned to Carver Center to host the CCIW tournament for the third time in its three-year existence. In the semifinals against Elmhurst, they put four starters in double figures to survive 69-68 in overtime and complete a three-game season sweep of the talented Bluejays. Collins was huge in the win, recording a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds and blocking three shots by All-CCIW center Brent Ruch in overtime. Playing without second team All-CCIW center Swetalla (out with a wrist injury) in the finals, the Vikings dispatched Illinois Wesleyan 71-60, completing a three-game season sweep of the Titans. Washington led Augustana with 14 points and they got outstanding contributions from Swetalla’s replacement, senior Dan Rukavina (Wheeling HS, Wheeling, Ill.), who had seven points and seven rebounds, as well as junior Justin Bertrand (Sterling HS, Sterling, Ill.),who exploded for 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Bertrand was especially good down the stretch with seven points and five rebounds in the last 3:07 of the game.
Their conference tournament title earned the Vikings their third straight NCAA Division III tournament berth and they hosted a four-team regional at Carver Center. Probably the toughest bracket in the entire tournament, it featured 6th-ranked Augustana as well as 11th-rated Washington University and 17th-ranked Wooster. Washington and Wooster were matched up in the first round in a rematch of last year’s national third place game, won by Washington. Augustana’s first round opponent was Aurora and they got possibly their best individual performance of the season by Wessels, who scored 28 points (21 in the second half) and collected 10 steals to lead Augustana to a 72-61 win. Also key was the defensive job done, primarily by Collins and Bertrand, on Spartan All-American Larry Welton, who finished with just eight points while committing six turnovers.
The Vikings season ended with a heart-breaking 70-67 overtime loss to Washington University the next night. In a game that resembled a heavyweight slugfest, Augustana played from behind most of the game, but tied it with 0.9 seconds left in regulation on two do-or-die free throws by Collins. Unfortunately the Bears held off the Vikings in the overtime, ending their fine season.
Head coach Grey Giovanine and his Vikings overcame the loss of Delp to have another outstanding season. They finished 23-6, making them 68-18 over the last three years. And with four starters due to return next year, there’s plenty of reason for optimism as they seek their fourth straight conference championship.
This year’s senior class of Delp, Swetalla, Rukavina, and Oliver Rorer (Bettendorf HS, Bettendorf, Iowa) were instrumental in Augustana’s recent success. In fact, Swetalla was the starting center on three consecutive outright champions, joining players such as North Park’s Michael Harper and Illinois Wesleyan’s Jack Sikma in doing so.
Once again offensive balance and tenacious defense were the keys to this year’s team. Wessels led the Vikings in scoring at 14.2 points per game as well as steals with 65, free throw percentage at .850, and three-pointers with 54. He led the CCIW in steals and was rewarded with first team All-CCIW honors. Swetalla was second in scoring and rebounding with averages of 11.2 and 5.9 respectively. He was a second team All-CCIW selection for the second straight year. Washington also averaged double figures at 10.3 points a game. Collins led in rebounding at 8.4 per game, the highest average for an Augustana player in 15 years. He also led the team in field goal percentage at .543 and blocked shots with 37. Pelton led in assists with 97 and three-point percentage at .365, and committed just 51 turnovers in a team-high 906 minutes to earn third team All-CCIW honors.
2007-08 CCIW Standings
2007-08 CCIW Tournament
February 29-March 1, 2008 at Carver PE Center
Augustana College—Rock Island, Ill.
Semifinals—Friday, February 29, 2008
Championship—Saturday, March 1, 2008
Augustana 71, Illinois Wesleyan 60
2007-08 Augustana Superlatives
CCIW Champions: 11-3...12th CCIW championship (1963-71-72-73-74-81-82-93-2003-06-07-08)
CCIW Tournament Champions: Defeated Illinois Wesleyan in championship, 71-60...Second CCIW tournament championship (2007-08)
NCAA Division III Tournament: 20th post season appearance...11th NCAA Division III Tournament (1975-76-77-80-81-82-83-93-2006-07-08)...Five NAIA National Tournaments (1939-40-72-73-74)...Three
NCAA College Division Tournaments (1959-60-71)...One U.S. Olympic Trial (1936)
CCIW Coach of the Year: Grey Giovanine...Third consecutive year
CCIW All-Conference: Brett Wessels (First Team)...Dain Swetalla (Second Team)...Matt Pelton (Third Team)
CCIW Team Statistical Leaders: Augustana led the CCIW in field goal percentage defense (.438, 332-758)
CCIW Individual Statistical Leaders: Brett Wessels led the CCIW in steals (2.00, 28 in 14 games)