By Harrison Sillings
Last season was a historic one for the Roosevelt University men’s basketball team. The Lakers finished the regular season with a 26-8 record overall, and came second in the CCAC after going 15-5 in conference play. That historic season was capped off with the program’s first appearance in the NAIA National Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This years Lakers squad has a potential to make it back to the postseason, but has a tough road ahead.
Senior Jake Ludwig has been key for the Lakers success both last season and this season. Ludwig is the schools all time leading scorer and is less than 30 points away from being the schools first 2,000 point scorer. He’s leading the team in scoring, averaging 17.4 ppg. His play with be important if the Lakers are going to make their way back to Sioux Falls.
First, the Lakers need to qualify for the conference tournament. Eight of the 14 teams in the CCAC make the conference tourney. At the moment, the Lakers sit tied for third with two regular season games remaining. Both of the remaining games are against familiar foes as the Lakers have played both Cardinal Stritch and Trinity Christian already this season. In December, the Lakers lost a close one to Cardinal Stritch and beat Trinity Christian pretty handily.
After making the conference tournament there’s two ways the Lakers can make it back to nationals. They can either win the tournament outright, which would secure them an automatic bid to Sioux Falls, or they need to face the regular season conference champion in the finals which would send both teams to nationals.
The Lakers have had recent success in the CCAC tournament. Last season they made a run to the championship game where they lost to Governors State. With seven returners from last season, six of which being seniors, the Lakers have plenty of talent, experience and leadership to make another run at nationals.
Senior biology major Kyle Bumbalough, and senior tourism and hospitality major Kevin Day shared their thoughts on what it would mean to be able to close out their careers at nationals.
“Putting a banner on the wall is one of the most fulfilling achievements and is why we come to work everyday,” said Bumbalough, noting that he and other senior players wanted to leave a legacy for the men’s team. “We don’t want to be the one hit wonders who made it one year and then fell off. We want to make this a tradition and put this program on the map so everyone knows who we are and what we are about.”
“It would mean the world to go back to nationals to close out my career because of how hard I’ve worked for so many years,” Day said. “To do it with this team, this family, would make it that much more special.
Although a return to nationals would be nice, the Lakers have to handle business in the conference tournament first.
“We have to make a run in the conference tournament,” said Head Coach Joe Griffin, when asked what their focus of emphasis is for the conference tournament. “We just have to win the first game on Tuesday night and then take it from there. Once we get a little closer we can start dreaming about the national tournament, but not until we win that first game.”