ACU men's basketball will start post-season on Monday


The ACU Wildcats will begin play in the Tournament (CIT) Monday in America's heartland as they face the Drake Bulldogs in a first-round matchup that will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.

The Wildcats (16-15 from the Southland Conference) will tip off at 1 p.m. against the Bulldogs (16-16 from the Missouri Valley Conference) at the Knapp Center on the Drake campus in Des Moines, Iowa. The game will also be broadcast locally on 98.1 FM The Ticket with Grant Boone calling the play by play action.

Monday's game is one of four games in the CIT first round that will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, and all four are part of the tournament's "Classic Series" that honors former college basketball coaching legends Hugh Durham, Lou Henson, Jim Phelan and Riley Wallace. The ACU-Drake game will be dubbed the Lou Henson Classic and will feature free admission to the game at the Knapp Center.

Henson was the head coach at Hardin-Simmons University (1962-66), New Mexico State (1966-75 and 1997-2005) and Illinois (1975-96), retiring as the all-time leader in wins at both Illinois (423 wins) and New Mexico State (289 wins). He retired with 779 total victories and is one of only four NCAA coaches to have amassed at least 200 total wins at two different universities. He's also a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, and the award for the top mid-major player in the country is named the Lou Henson Award.

ACU is playing in a postseason tournament for the first time as an NCAA Division I member, and its first postseason tournament of any kind since the 2007-08 Lone Star Conference Tournament when ACU was still an NCAA Division II affiliate. The last time ACU played in a tournament beyond the conference tournament was the 1998-99 NCAA Division II South Central Region Tournament when the Wildcats reached the championship game before falling to Truman State.

The Wildcats earned their spot in the postseason with a strong resume that includes wins over Texas State, Campbell, Bowling Green and Air Force in the non-conference portion of the schedule, as well as conference wins over Sam Houston State, Lamar and Central Arkansas, which are also in contention for postseason tournament berths.

Drake is making its third appearance in the 10-year history of the CIT, but this will be the Bulldogs' first appearance in the postseason since 2012. Drake played in the CIT in 2009 and 2012, losing 69-67 to Idaho in the first round in 2009 and then going 1-1 in the 2012 tournament with a win over North Dakota (70-64) before losing at Rice (74-68) in the second round.

The Bulldogs enter the game at 16-16 overall in head coach Niko Medved's first season at Drake. They finished 10-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference, but lost a 63-61 heartbreaker to Bradley on March 2 in the first round of the conference tournament. They have wins this season over Wake Forest (77-74 in the season-opener on Nov. 17), Drexel and Omaha in non-conference play.

Drake is led by senior guard Reed Timmer, one of the great players in Drake history and a four-year starter. Timmer is the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,974 points entering Monday's game. He is averaging 19.6 points per game and has hit 91 of 212 3-point attempts entering the game. Nick Mcglynn (11.1 ppg) and De'Antae McMurry (10.2 ppg) are also averaging in double figures.

ACU and Drake have only met once before in basketball with the Bulldogs taking an 87-70 win over ACU at the Knapp Center on Dec. 22, 2015. Zimmer got into early foul trouble in the game and only scored 10 points, while Graham Woodward — averaging 9.4 ppg this season — scored 23 for the Bulldogs. ACU was led that day by then-freshman forward Jaren Lewis, who had 15 points and five rebounds in his first career start.

First-round CIT games will be played March 12-15 with the second round set for March 16-21. Quarterfinal games will be played March 22-25 with the semifinals set for March 28 and the championship game on March 30.

Courtesy ACU Athletics

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