The DePauw University Tigers (24-2) are back—again—for another appearance in the Division III National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament after receiving an at-large bid. Ranked eighth in the nation, the Tigers will face Hanover College (19-8), who earned automatic qualification for winning the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
The game will be played at DePauw in Neal Fieldhouse on Friday night.
This is the Tiger’s twelfth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, while it is Hanover’s fourth ever.
The NCAA tournament elevates the level of intensity, of play and of preparation. “We know that the season only gets harder when you make it into the NCAA tournament so we've been preparing for a tough game and know that a loss will end our season,” said junior Morgan Skordos. “We will do whatever it takes to win.”
That being said, the team is also trying to keep things normal. “We’re preparing the same way we do for every game,” said Hannah Gardner, who, as a freshman, said she is “anxious but excited” for her first NCAA tournament.
Hanover, who placed second overall in their conference but won their tournament, are going into the first round of the tournament with only four other trips to the tournament at their back.
They’re led by two seniors, forward Megan Caudill and guard Alicia Hopkins, who both average over 14 points a game. Caudill also pulls down close to eight rebounds a game.
“We have watched a lot of film to see the tendencies the Hanover players have as well as practicing against the offenses and presses they run,” said Skordos.
Specifically, Hanover runs a full court trap that the Tigers have been targeting. “We’re working on beating that trap in practice,” said Gardner.
“I think it will be a great matchup because our teams are very similar,” said Skordos. “They can all drive and shoot the ball really well, similar to us.”
After carefully watching film, Gardner has a good understanding of how Hanover plays. “They play a lot of guards and that is something we can do as well. They run a quick, fast tempo offense and an up in your face defense. They try to make you make mistakes. We just have to remain calm and run the offense how we want to,” she said.
Hanover player Zoe Higgins, whose team captains wouldn’t allow her to answer any questions about the actual game, said, “All I can say is that we're going to come out and play with the same tenacity we've had all year. We're very thankful to have the opportunity to keep playing the game we love.”
The Tigers offense will be lead by top scorer, senior Savannah Trees (averaging 16 points a game) who was just named first team all-conference in the NCAC, along with fellow senior Hannah Douglas. Emma Ondik was named second team.
The game is Friday night at Neal Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.