The North Central men's basketball team had high expectations coming into the 2012-13 campaign, but not even coach Todd Raridon could have predicted this quick of an ascent for his team.
The Cardinals will go into Wednesday night's game as the No. 1 team in the country in Division III, holding on to the top spot for the second week in a row in the D3hoops.com poll.
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"I wasn't sure where we would be at this point," Raridon said. "We had a lot of returning players, but you never know how those guys are going to come back from the year before or play as a group. The biggest difference is I've been pleased with our senior leadership."
Those seniors who have already led this North Central team into the record books have a chance to tie another school record on the road against Carthage. A victory would tie for the second longest win streak at 14 games.
Despite his team's success, Raridon said the Cardinals have to get better if they want to reach their goals. While their defense has been stout, rarely letting the opposing team top 65 points, Raridon is looking for more consistency from the Cardinals' offense. He is also trying to instill a sense of urgency on the boards, an area that Raridon said he has been concerned with for the past two games.
While the coach can find problems with the 13-0 team, the numbers can't. The Cardinal's have beaten most of their opponents by double digits, the closest game a 6-point margin against Benedictine. North Central has four players averaging more than 10 points a game, led by Landon Gamble's 13.5.
Wednesday will be the third CCIW game for Raridon's team, already defeating Wheaton College and Elmhurst. Although Carthage (5-8, 0-2) may not have the record to show it, Raridon said it is always a challenge to win on the road in the CCIW.
Raridon expects his guards to be pressured and to have multiple defensive looks thrown at his team. This will make ball security of the utmost importance, Raridon said.
"I think our kids understand how tough it is to play at Carthage," Raridon said. "They have quality players in their program. That's why I love this conference, excellent players and excellent coaches. You want competition, it's right here in the CCIW."
College of DuPage:
Both the men's and women's COD basketball programs will be playing the remaining games of the season away from the school's Klaas Court, even the home games. COD is in the middle of a $25 million facelift to the entire school, and while it held off as long as it could, the basketball arena is next up.
Athletic director Paul Zakowski said he finally had to move the basketball teams out of the arena at the end of December. Both the men's and women's team will play at Walker Athletics, a sports complex just a few miles away from the COD campus at 4925 Indiana Ave., Lisle. While the new court won't have the same creature comforts as Klaas Court, Zakowski said the facility will have all the necessities needed for a college court.
The main reason the new location was picked was to give the teams plenty of time to practice on the court. Zakowski said both the men and women have had time to practice at Walker. The coaches preferred to play on a court where they could also host their practices, as opposed to sharing a court with another school.
The Chaparrals will host their remaining seven home games at Walker Athletics, and the start of next season. Zakowski hopes to return to the renovated campus court by early 2014.