The No. 23-ranked Ashland University men's basketball team opens GLIAC Tournament play on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Kates Gymnasium vs. No. 7 seed Grand Valley State.
MARCH MADNESS: The calendar has flipped from February to March and that means Madness begins. From a regular season that started with a 72-57 win at Lake Erie on Nov. 9, the Eagles start their second season on Tuesday night with the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal against Grand Valley State at Kates Gymnasium.
NO. 2 SEED: The Eagles enter the GLIAC Tournament as the No. 2 seed, having clinched it before last Thursday's regular season finale. The last time the Eagles were the No. 2 seed – in 2016 – they beat Grand Valley State and No. 1 seed Saginaw Valley State was upset in the quarterfinal so Ashland hosted the GLIAC Tournament semifinals and final.
MIDWEST REGION RANKINGS: The Eagles were ranked No. 5 in the second edition of the NCAA Division II Midwest Region rankings that were released last Wednesday. The top eight teams in the region, including the champions of the GLIAC, GLVC and G-MAC Tournaments, will earn bids to the NCAA Tournament. The third release of the Midwest Region rankings will be issued on Wednesday afternoon. The NCAA Tournament field will be announced on Sunday at 10:30 p.m. The Eagles are seeking their first NCAA bid since 2016 and their second since 1991.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK: The Eagles played their regular season finale last Thursday and recognized seven seniors prior to the game. Ashland pulled away from Wayne State in the closing minutes, 70-63, to finish the regular season with a 23-5 mark. Junior center Drew Noble and redshirt-sophomore guard Aaron Thompson each registered a double-double.
NOBLE GLIAC SOUTH POTW: Junior center Drew Noble was named the GLIAC South Player of the Week for his performance in Thursday's win over the Warriors. He scored 18 points, corralled a season-high 14 rebounds and blocked three shots for his third double-double of the season. The 6-foot-8 Louisville native shot 9-21 from the floor and also added one assist and one steal in the game. It was the second time in three weeks Noble won the award. He is one of four Eagles to be named the GLIAC South Player of the Week as Ashland claimed five of the 16 honors this season.
CLOSE ALL THE WAY: Wayne State had an early 6-2 lead in the game, but once junior guard Rodrick Caldwell hit a 3-pointer with 15:51 left in the first half, neither team led by more than three points until another Caldwell trey with 7:31 left in the game gave the Eagles a 56-51 lead. That is more than 28 minutes with the margin at three points or less. Once Ashland got it to a five-point game, the margin never went under that mark again.
THOMPSON EFFICIENT: The 19-point, 13-rebound performance from Thompson on Thursday earned him his 10th double-double of the season. He shot 7-9 from the field in 37 minutes as he used an array of drives and post moves to penetrate the Wayne State defense. He moved up to sixth in the GLIAC in field goal percentage (54.9) and is the conference leader in rebounds (9.4), despite standing just 6-foot-3.
GLIAC TOURNAMENT HISTORY: The Eagles are 7-14 all-time in GLIAC Tournament games and are playing in their fifth straight postseason. Ashland has won its last three quarterfinal appearances, including last season when the Eagles overcame a 22-point deficit in the second half to beat visiting Northern Michigan, 83-72, in overtime. AU fell in the semifinals at top-seed Ferris State, which has eliminated the Eagles from the last four conference tournaments. AU has played in the GLIAC title game one time, in 2017, losing to the Bulldogs, 80-79, in Big Rapids, Mich. as the No. 6 seed. The Eagles lost five straight GLIAC quarterfinals from 2007-15. This will be the fifth GLIAC Men's Basketball Tournament game played at Kates Gymnasium and the fourth in the quartefinal round (2006, 2016, 2018).
OUR HOME KATES: In 10 years under head coach John Ellenwood, the Eagles have made Kates Gymnasium one of the toughest places to play in the country. Ashland has won nearly 78 percent of its home games under Ellenwood and has not lost more than three games at home since the 2013-14 season.
PHIL ALL-TIME IRON-MAN: When senior forward Phil Frentsos enters Tuesday's game, he will become the program's all-time leader in games played, surpassing former teammate Marsalis Hamilton, who graduated last year. Since joining the Eagles as a freshman in the 2015-16 season, he has played in all but one game. In 2016, Frentsos played in the NCAA Tournament against Indianapolis, and in 2017, helped Ashland make a run to the GLIAC Tournament championship game. Of his 117 games played, Frentsos has made 11 starts, including in each of the last seven games.
SERIES VS. LAKERS: The Eagles are 17-20 all-time against Grand Valley State with the teams splitting two regular season meetings this season. Each team won its home floor as Ashland won in Allendale, 74-63, on Dec. 6, while the Lakers claimed a 60-53 win at Kates Gymnasium on Feb. 2. That snapped a three-game losing streak for GVSU at Kates. The Eagles are 1-1 all-time aginast Grand Valley in the GLIAC Tournament. The Eagles won in the quarterfinal, 67-58, at Kates Gymnasium in 2016. In the 2006 semifinal, the Lakers beat Ashland, 90-77, at GVSU Fieldhouse Arena.
NOBLE GOOGLE CLOUD AAD: Noble has been named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District team, becoming the first AU men's player to earn that distinction since Brett Bartlett in 2008. He is now eligible for the Google Cloud Academic All-America ballot. The Academic All-America program seeks to recognize the elite performers in competition and in the classroom. Noble ranks sixht in the GLIAC in scoring (17.4 per game) and also carries a 3.78 GPA as an accounting student. He scored his 1,000th career point on Feb. 23.