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updated: 2/26/2013 10:49 PM

North Central, Wheaton prepare for NCAA Tournament

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By Kyle Thele
kthele@dailyherald.com

The North Central men's basketball team seems to be hitting its stride, and it couldn't come at a better time for coach Todd Raridon's team.

No stranger to high-pressure games, the Cardinals are heading into the NCAA playoffs on an eight-game winning streak with the last three coming against nationally ranked opponents.

North Central finished the regular season with a victory against Illinois Wesleyan before knocking off Wheaton and IWU again in the CCIW Tournament to earn the automatic conference bid into the Division III NCAA Tournament. To further help North Central's odds of postseason success it will host its first-round playoff game Saturday night in Naperville against the Centre College Colonels.

This will be the first meeting between the two schools. The numbers appear to favor the Cardinals, who finished with a better record in a more difficult conference, and while Centre has qualified for the playoffs six of the last seven years, it will be the first appearance for all but one starter.

A win against Centre would move the Cardinals along to a second round matchup a week later against either Dubuque or defending national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Wheaton:

The surprise season for the Wheaton men's basketball team is going to continue on into the Division III playoffs, and it will start off with a home game. The Thunder will host St. Norbert College on Saturday night at King Arena.

Expected to finish in the middle of the CCIW, Wheaton earned a trip to the conference tournament. After finishing ranked nationally the Thunder was given an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

St. Norbert finished with a better record than Wheaton and earned the automatic bid by winning the Midwest Conference championship. Saturday's 7 p.m. tip will mark the ninth meeting between the two schools. The winner will move on to face the winner between St. Thomas and Aurora University on March 9.

Women's Basketball: Despite a pair of late season losses to Carthage the Wheaton College women's basketball team has been given an at-large bid and will continue its season in the Division III NCAA Tournament on Saturday. The Thunder is being rewarded for a 22-5 season and a second-place finish in both the regular season and the CCIW Tournament.

Wheaton will start the tournament on the road, heading to Holland, Mich., to play MIAA champion Hope College.

The Thunder will look to complete the upset behind the scoring ability of Brooke Olson (Wheaton North). The senior guard led the team by a wide margin in both minutes and points in addition to a number of other categories throughout the season.

Further complicating the upset bid for Wheaton is its postseason inexperience. The Thunder hasn't made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season. If the Wheaton women can pull the upset they will stay in Holland to play the winner of Ohio Northern-Hanover game.

College of DuPage:

A team without a home, the COD women's basketball team was still able to make the NJCAA Division III regional tournament. The team, filled almost entirely with freshmen, hasn't played a true home game since the first of the year due to campus construction. Despite their setbacks the Chaparrals still finished second in their conference and earned a first-round playoff bye.

Their first-round game will be played Saturday at Harper College. While the Chaps awaits their opponent, they do know that a win Saturday followed by another victory on Sunday will send the team to the NJCAA Division III national tournament in Minnesota.

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