Necks prepare for tournament


File Photo

Brandon Gillbeck keeps his eye on the ball on defense.

Michael Harms, Courier Staff

Western Illinois University will try to stay sane during their March Madness games. It takes place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Their first game will be against The South Dakota State Jack Rabbits. The game will be at Denny Sanford Premier Center at 6 p.m. on March 3. Western Illinois enters the game as an eight seed, with a conference record of 3-11, SDSU is currently first seed, with a conference record of 13-1.

Western looks to prove the world wrong with challenging the number one seed. Their upsetting season has had head coach Billy Wright, nervous on the outcome of the team. He has one more year on his contract, but with a sub-par season he must prove that his team can compete where it matters most. The only three conference wins were from Fort Wayne, North Dakota State and Oral Roberts. Posting such a low winning percentage does not look good for Wright, but he hopes to turn it around and compete with the Jack Rabbits. They have a 9.2 percent chance of winning their first game, and after the first two matchups looks to be a blowout. In the first matchup the Leathernecks lost by 28 and the second time lost by 20. If Wright can bring his team within single digits to the Jack Rabbits, it will show improvement and hopefully showcase returning talent for Western’s future.

Western’s season was not filled only with defeat. Junior forward Brandon Gilbeck won defensive player of the year for the summit league, as he averages 2.5 blocks per game and 4.6 rebounds per game. His efforts earned him a spot on the All Summit League team as he also led the summit league shooting 62.5 percent from the field. His efforts show promise for the Leathernecks and yet there is still more to look forward too. The leader for Western is freshman guard Kobe Webster. He averages 17.4 points per game and 3.6 assists per game.

Webster’s swagger brings life to the Leathernecks and it will be interesting how he performs under the limelight.

On the other side of the court, South Dakota State holds more talent, awards, and banners than Western. In the last seven years SDSU has held five banners. Their awards this year make a long list. Senior guard Mike Daum won Summit League Player of the year. Over the year he won seven Summit League player of the week awards. Four players on The Summit League teams, freshman guard David Jenkins won freshman of the year, and coach T.J. Otzelberger won coach of the year. The awards are endless, and they look to come out swinging in the Summit League Tournament.

They must back up all their wins, records and awards with a dominating performance in the tournament. They want to win against Western one last time and advance in the tournament to win the official title. Can Western upset the dominating Jacks, or will SDSU showcase their continuing dynasty in the Summit League once again? To find out tune in to 88.3 dog as Aaron Jones and Brendan Reidy call the live action on March 3, at 6 p.m.