College Basketball: St. Xavier men, women land in NAIA dance
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media March 5, 2013 8:38PM
Roosevelt Green, a Tinley Park graduate, averages 11.7 points and seven assists per game for St. Xavier. | Supplied photo
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:32AM
In late November, when St. Xavier’s men’s basketball team was 3-3, it seemed unlikely the Cougars would get back to the national tournament for the first time since 2010.
Flash forward 27 games. The Cougars are 28-5 and one of the hottest teams in the country.
Ranked No. 7, St. Xavier will open the 32-team NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship against the University of St. Mary (Kan.) at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in Point Lookout, Mo., near Branson.
“Most of us have never been in the tournament,” St. Xavier junior guard Brad Karp said. “We’re excited to get it rolling. The goal is go all the way, but we have to take it one game at a time.”
The No. 18 Cougars women’s team, meanwhile, will make its 11th straight appearance in the Division II women’s tournament. Seeded fifth in their quarter of the 32-team bracket, St. Xavier will open against No. 4 seed St. Thomas (Fla.) at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Sioux City, Iowa.
The men’s team is coming off an 84-75 loss to No. 2 Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship.
Before that, the Cougars had won 17 straight dating to Dec. 28.
“We’re going in with momentum,” St. Xavier coach Tom O’Malley said. “We’re a pretty well-rounded team and we’re hard to guard.”
Karp, the CCAC Player of the Year, averages a team-best 21.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
He gives a lot of the credit to his teammates, especially point guard Roosevelt Green (Tinley Park), who averages 11.7 points and 7.0 assists a game.
“Rosie is one of the top point guards in the country,” Karp said. “We all play through him. He’s our leader.”
For Green, his senior season has been a wild ride.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “This team has such a great chemistry. We do a lot of things without even thinking about it because we know how each other plays and where each other will be.
“Last time we made the tournament wasn’t fun (a first-round loss in 2010). We’re looking to do a lot better this year.”
Other key performers for the team include Plainfield North product Jack Krieger (13.9 ppg) and Homewood-Flossmoor alum Dominique Harvey (10.8).
Thornridge product Anthony Grant, who O’Malley said is the team’s best defender, also scores 13.4 points per game.
On the women’s side, the Cougars are searching for consistency.
St. Xavier (24-6) has victories over No. 1 Morningside (Iowa) and No. 2 St. Francis (Ind.), but also has suffered some inexplicable losses, including in its latest game when it was upset 70-64 by Indiana-South Bend in the CCAC quarterfinals.
“We’re excited to bounce back and get a win after that one,” guard Morgan Stuut said. “We’re moving forward and we’re confident. We know we can beat anybody.”
Stuut, the CCAC Player of the Year, leads the Cougars with 18.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Suzie Broski, like Stuut a sophomore, averages 16.1 points per game.
Rich South alum Niara Harris (5.9 points per game), Lincoln-Way East product Caitlin McMahon (5.8) and Mother McAuley alum Margaret Wildner (3.6) contribute off the bench.
“This is the first time in 10 years we didn’t win our conference or our conference tournament,” coach Bob Hallberg said. “It’s a strange feeling. The biggest key for us is shooting the ball. We have not been consistent in that area. We’re hoping we can rise to the occasion.”