Beavers gear up for Washington
The Beavers' St. Louis sectional has its share of studs.
Edrick Montgomery averages 16.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for a No. 14-ranked Millsaps College (Miss.) club that's won 27 of 30 games.
Tyson Lesesne throws in 18 a night on 51 percent shooting for a battle-tested, 19-11 St. Mary's (Md.) team that features four players averaging 12.6 points or better.
But first things first. For now, Buena Vista will focus on containing another standout: Troy Ruths of No. 11 Washington University-St. Louis.
Ruths on Tuesday received the Jostens Trophy, the top individual honor in NCAA Division III basketball. His Bears host the Beavers tomorrow night at 8 in the sectional round of the men's national tourney. The winner faces the St. Mary's-Millsaps winner the next night at 7 on the same court. The Final Four is March 21-22 in Salem, Va.
"They're really good in the post. They've got good guards that can shoot the ball," Beavers coach Brian VanHaaften said of the Bears. "We have to rebound the ball well, limit them to one shot and do all we can to limit their shooters in catching the ball where they want to catch it within their sets.
"We want to limit their great looks on the arc."
Ruths, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, received the award in part because of his off-court duty. He's a computer science major with a 4.0 GPA who averages 19.6 points and 6.7 rebounds.
No. 11 WUSTL has lost just once on its home court this season, but that might not mean a whole lot. St. Thomas (Minn.) was undefeated at home until BVU - with its well-traveled student section - knocked it off last Friday in St. Paul, Minn.
"You can get some advantages (being a road team)," said VanHaaften. "We're just kind of going to play the game."
"They don't have a whole lot of students on campus because it's their spring break," he added, "so they don't have people telling them how good they are all week, but it's negative (for Washington) in that you probably don't have a good crowd."
Coe is the only common opponent for BVU and WUSTL. The Bears beat Coe 68-63 on Dec. 15, while the Beavers beat the Kohawks 64-63 in their first meeting before losing the second contest 83-78.
A win tomorrow night would be the biggest in national tournament history for the Beavers, who have never advanced to the Elite Eight.
VanHaaften hesitated for a moment when asked to compare this year's club with his other two Sweet 16 teams, in 2000 and 2003. The latter starred current assistant Eric Wiebers - as well as big men Scott Weber and Chris Petersen - and featured Casey Pelzer at the point.
"I don't want to put this team down but it's probably not the best one. But then again, I don't know about that for sure," the coach said. "It's probably a little more physical of a team than we've had. We have better depth on this team. We've done a good job of coming together as juniors and seniors; it's a closeknit group.
"They see the end is in sight and they don't want to see this end anytime soon."
They've done a great job of keeping their composure, VanHaaften added.
"I've had other teams (that were closeknit) too, but this group is a little bit more fun loving of a group and (enjoys) being around each other."
The Beavers took off for the Gateway last night. Beaver fans who can't swing a trip to Missouri this weekend can still follow the action live, with local flavor intact: Chris Boeckman will have the call on 97.5FM KBVU radio.