CLEVELAND -- “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
After winning the Ohio Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships, the John Carroll University men’s basketball team gets to enjoy some home cooking over the first weekend of the NCAA Division III National Tournament, as they were selected to host a pod of first and second-round games, starting tonight against Thomas More College at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center.
“Thomas More, you don’t win 23 games by accident, and I think they have one loss in the last two months, so we know we have our hands full, but playing at home is vital, and I think our kids were well-deserved of hosting a pod and hosting a couple teams in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament,” Moran said.
Under Moran, John Carroll posted a 20-5 record during the regular season, and stormed their way through the OAC Tournament, winning by an average of 19.6 points over Heidelberg, Baldwin Wallace and Ohio Northern on the way to claiming its fifth postseason championship and second in the last three years.
John Carroll (23-5) previously won OAC Tournament titles in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2016.
“It comes down to recruiting quality kids who love the game of basketball,” Moran said.
“If you’re in Division III athletics and you don’t love the sport you’re playing, you’re not going to last very long. We figured out that if we’re able to get quality student-athletes, individuals that love the game of basketball, local kids, it only leads to success.”
The Blue Streaks have five players who averaged double figures during the regular season and conference tournament, led by 17.3 points per game from senior wing Matthew Csuhran (Brecksville-Broadview Heights), as well as 13.4 each from senior guard Antonio Vuyancih (Euclid/Lakewood St. Edward) and sophomore guard Ryan Berger (Medina/Cleveland St. Ignatius).
Senior forward John Cirillo (Pepper Pike/Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin High School) averaged 11.7 points per game and freshman guard Jackson Sartain (Medina) added 10.8 markers for the Blue Streaks.
In the last quarter-century, John Carroll has become known for its ability to do hockey-style five-in, five-out line changes during games, and that is evidenced by this year’s team, where Csuhran and Sartain come off the bench.
“I knew we had a special group, especially with the guys coming in and the guys returning,” Moran said. “It was more or less a figuring-out period. This year, our approach was not necessarily putting guys in groups based on statistical ability, but it was which guys complemented each other the best.”
Thomas More (23-5) earned its way into the NCAA Tournament by winning the Presidents’ Athletic Conference with a 78-73 decision over Bethany College last Saturday, and the Blue Streaks know well that whether games are played at home, on the road or at a neutral site, it comes down to one thing, executing more than the opponent.
“At this point in the year, it’s really a Craps shoot, and it’s a cheesy cliché, but it comes down to making shots and getting stops,” Moran said. “If we’re able to make some shots and get some stops, then I like our chances. We’re excited about the opportunity, but we know we have an uphill climb from here.”