Men’s basketball playing well, on postseason bubble
The Augustana men’s basketball team is starting to hit their stride at the right time of the year.
The men are coming off of a weekend road sweep against cross-town rival University of Sioux Falls and a road win at Southwest Minnesota State. Head coach Tom Billeter now finds his team in third place in the NSIC South and riding a four-game winning streak.
“I think we’ve played well all year,” Billeter said. “We’ve lost several close games and once in double digits to the number one team in the country on their home court. We just need to stay healthy and finish games.”
The Vikings are one game behind first place in the south division. With a 14-6 conference record, they trail only Upper Iowa and Southwest Minnesota State, who are tied at the top of the division at 15-5. Augustana hosts Upper Iowa and Winona (8-12 in conference play) this weekend.
“It’s competitive week after week,” junior forward Marcus Asmus said. “We can’t have an off night at this point in the season.”
Augustana had to turn to new heroes this season after its national championship season last year. Graduate transfer Mike Busack and junior Jordan Spencer both have won NSIC South Division Player of the Week honors multiple times this season.
Spencer is coming off a 39-point performance Saturday against SMSU.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about wins,” junior guard Steven Schaefer said. “Our goal is to go out there every game and do whatever it is we need to do to get a win that day.”
In two weeks, the NSIC tournament returns to Sioux Falls, and the Vikings are getting prepared to defend their crown. The Sanford Pentagon will host the men and women’s tournament again this season.
“It’s not as much of an advantage as people think, playing at the Pentagon,” Billeter said. “The people of Sanford do such a great job of putting on that tournament for all the teams that qualify, but sometimes its nice to be on the road because we get closer as a team.”
As for the players, they appreciate the opportunity to play in the conference tournament in front of the home fans.
“The energy in that building is electric,” Asmus said. “Playing in front of our fans in the conference tournament is a lot of fun for us and the fans that come, especially when we can play USF and get both sides in the mix.”
Augustana will likely host the first round of the NSIC tournament at the Sioux Falls Arena Wednesday Feb. 22.