By: CJ Donald – Columnist
After a 23-win season that brought the Centre College Colonels (23-4; 13-1 SAA) a Southern Athletic Association Tournament Championship, Centre Men’s Basketball earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. On Thurs., March 6 at 7 p.m., the Colonels host the LaGrange (Ga.) Panthers in Alumni Gymnasium for Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament.
LaGrange (18-10; 9-5 USA South) was granted a tournament berth after winning the USA South Tournament Championship over the Huntingdon Hawks, 94-84. This will be LaGrange’s first ever trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Colonels, led by senior Collin Lopez, first-year Ryan Murray, sophomore Blake Scinta, sophomore Tyler Wesley, and senior Donovan Whiteside, hope to make LaGrange’s trip short-lived.
This season, Centre Men’s Basketball dominated the court at home, amassing a 12-0 home record. LaGrange struggled on the road, going 6-6 and losing to teams such as Pensacola Christian College, Emory University, and SAA team Rhodes College. LaGrange scores an average of 89.2 points each game and has only scored less than 76 twice (73 against Oglethorpe and 65 against Sewanee). On average, LaGrange loses the rebound battle against its opponents and commits over 21 personal fouls each night.
The Colonels score 76.8 points per game and shoot 73.3% from the freethrow line. Much like the Panthers, Centre sports a scoring attack that is balanced, but there is a distinct difference between the two teams: LaGrange only has a 4.5 point margin of victory against opponents whereas Centre beats other teams by at least 12.5 points on average.
The last time the Panthers faced the Colonels, the members of this year’s graduating class were rookies at Centre College. Centre beat the home team LaGrange with a score of 62-48. On the strength of then-junior Greg Ross (27 points, 5 rebounds) and current-senior Whiteside (7 points, 7 rebounds), the Colonels gave LaGrange their second straight loss of the season.