Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats
2011-12 record: 21-12 (12-6)
Coach: Greg Tonagel (8th season, 178-62)
Conference: Mid-Central College Conference (NAIA Division II)
Series: first meting
TV: 7 p.m. tonight on IUHoosiers.com (replay on BTN at 3:30 p.m. on November 6)
Indiana begins its run for an NCAA title when the Hoosiers meet their first live opponent, the Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats, in a exhibition game tonight. The Wildcats are an NAIA Division II program, so they should not present much resistance to the Hoosiers, even compared to NCAA Division II opponents of recent years. Still, IWU seems to have built an excellent program under coach Greg Tonagel. A LaPorte native, Tonagel played his college ball for Homer Drew and Scott Drew at Valparaiso and played in four NCAA Tournaments. He graduated in 2003 and then spent two years on the Valpo staff before taking the IWU job in 2005. Tonagel quickly turned the Wildcats around, and has let them to at least a share of the conference title in five of his first seven seasons. IWU has played in the postseason in the past six seasons, and has reached the NAIA Elite Eight four times.
As would be expected for an Indiana college with an Indiana-bred coach, the IWU roster has a Hoosier flavor. Twelve of the 16 Wilcats played high school ball in Indiana, so presumably getting the chance to play at Assembly Hall in front of a full house will be a big thrill for them. IWU is ranked #4 in NAIA and is 1-0, having defeated #14 St. Xavier already. The Wildcats return four of their top five scorers from last season, including forward Patrick Hopkins of Kokom and guard Jordan Weidner of Danville. George Jones IV, from South Bend, shot 45 percent from three point range last season. In their opener, the Wildcats were dominant offensively. Aaron Martin, from Rossville, shot 7-9 from three point range and scored 27 points. Weidner led the way with 28 points, including 10-15 from the field, and Hopkins added 20 points. The Wildcats shot 63 percent from the field.
Tom Crean has said he intends to treat this game as a regular season game, so it will be interesting to see the lineup, rotations, etc. Most importantly, it's a game. It will be great to see the top-ranked Hoosiers in action.