CLEVELAND — "March Madness" is about to arrive in a big way for a select few Northeast Ohio universities.
Mount Union, Case Western Reserve, and John Carroll will all be headed to the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament, with the 64-team bracket officially being revealed on Monday. The Purple Raiders and Spartans each won their respective conferences and will both host first and second-round games, while the at-large Blue Streaks will start on the road in Upstate New York.
Let's take a look at what each team has done to get to this point.
This marks Mount's fifth trip to the "Big Dance," with the Raiders previously advancing to the Sweet 16 three times. This might be their best chance yet at a big run, as they are currently ranked third in the nation with a 25-2 record.
The Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament champions are led by OAC Player of the Year Christian Parker, a GlenOak grad who is averaging 17.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Twinsburg native Darrell Newsome also took home Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Akron's Collen Gurley joined both as a first-team All-OAC selection.
Mike Fuline's squad has endured some tournament heartbreak in recent years: The 2020 group was ranked No. 5 and made it to the Sweet 16 before the rest of the tournament was canceled by COVID-19, while last year they were upset in the first round by Stevens out of New Jersey. This time around, Mount Union will host Anderson (18-9) from Indiana Friday at roughly 7:40 p.m. at Timken Gymnasium, with the winner facing either NYU or Lancaster Bible in the second round.
Case Western Reserve
It's been a meteoric rise for the Spartans, who last season made their first tournament appearance and went on an improbable run to the Sweet 16. Head coach Todd McGuinness has only improved on that success in 2023 by leading Case to the University Athletic Association championship, the first conference title in program history.
Former graduate transfer Mitch Prendergast leads the scoring at 17.2 per game, and forward Cole Frilling is averaging 16.0 himself along with 8.0 rebounds, one of four players hauling in at least five boards every contest. Guard Danny Frauenheim (another grad transfer) also puts up 7.0 assists per game along with 12.5 points.
Ranked No. 8 nationally with a 21-3 record, Case Western Reserve will welcome Arcadia (15-11) to Horsburgh Gymnasium Friday at 6:20 p.m. The winner takes on either Wisconsin-Whitewater or Wabash on Saturday.
3News' Nick Camino already profiled the Blue Streaks' incredible recovery from dead last in the OAC in 2022 to league co-champions this season. JCU was the No. 1 seed in the conference tourney, but was upset by Marietta in the semifinals, and will instead settle for one of 20 at-large bids.
Despite the recent bitter defeat, the Streaks still have a lot to be proud of, and are currently ranked 10th in the country with a 22-4 record that earned Pete Moran OAC Coach of the Year honors. Additionally, Mentor native guards Luke Frazier (16.4 points per game) and Luke Chicone (15.3 points, 4.9 assists per game) were first-team all-conference selections.
This is the 16th tournament berth for John Carroll, but unlike its Northeast Ohio counterparts, it will be forced to begin play on the road on Oswego, New York, battling Albertus Magnus (19-9) Friday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. The winner gets either No. 6 Oswego State or Marymount out of Virginia in the second round.