The Division of Recreational Sports and the University of Wisconsin-Madison were well represented at the 2017 NIRSA National Basketball Championships hosted by Ohio State University April 29-30.
The Women’s and Men’s Club Basketball programs each sent two teams to the Club Division of the tournament. Three of the four clubs made it out of pool play, but the Men’s UW-Madison Red team lost a heartbreaker in the opening round to Grand Canyon University, 45-44.
The Women’s UW-Madison Red team started the road to the championship first, with a convincing 50-35 win versus Ohio University in the Sweet Sixteen. Next up was NC State in the Elite Eight, a battle from the very beginning. NC State had quickness, but Madison Red used their presence at the basket to pull out a 45-31 victory, booking them a trip to the Final Four for the second year in a row. There, they faced Ohio State University, a bitter club rival. Ohio State ended Madison’s tournament run three years ago in a heartbreaking last-second shot, and the Badgers certainly did not forget. Ohio State was the top seed and the favorite to win the tournament, but apparently no one told Madison Red.
They started strong and never looked back, stunning Ohio State 41-31. The win was only made sweeter by the fact that Madison Red was back in the Women’s Club Championship game for the second year in a row. Last year’s loss to USC to become national runners up has motivated the team all year, and it showed in the championship game where they faced Air Force, another rival. Madison White lost to Air Force at the 2017 Regional Tournament at Nebraska, so Madison Red had revenge, along with a national title, in mind. With that focus, Madison Red held Air Force to zero total points in the first half, a feat never before seen at a NIRSA National Championship title game. They dominated the second half as well, claiming the national title with a 32-14 win. Post Kaitlyn Crothers, a former IM basketball official, took home tournament MVP honors, and after four short years as a club in the program, the Women’s Club Basketball team achieved its goal of a national title.
Up next in the tournament was the Men’s UW Madison White team. They received a first round bye out of pool play and faced Lamar University in the Sweet Sixteen, beating them handily 66-50. Next, they faced James Madison University in a battle of the Madisons! A battle it was, as James Madison hit a wild last-second 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. Madison White held on and sneaked out a 66-64 victory in overtime, earning a trip to the Final Four for the second time in three years. The semifinal proved an easier match than the morning game, as they claimed a 76-64 victory over UNC-Pembroke to mark their first ever trip to the national final. There, they faced Boston College, another undefeated team in the tournament. Whispers of a UW Madison Club sweep started long before the tip of the ball, but Madison White had a slow scoring start and it plagued them for much of the first half. Their strong defense helped keep the game within one point, and they were down 20-19 going into the half. A couple of big runs in the second half helped create a gap that Boston College struggled to close, and with a 25 point, 7 rebound performance from tournament MVP Jake Boxleitner, the Badgers pulled out the 48-38 victory over Boston College for the club’s first ever national title!
The national tournament is also an opportunity for the best officials in the country to show off their skills. Four officials from the Competitive Sports department – John Pape, Matt DeBaker, Maddie Dahmer, and Colin Anderson – earned their way to nationals, the most of any school in the country. To qualify, officials first had to travel to regional tournaments in the Midwest to compete against officials from other schools for the top 2-3 spots. Top officials from each tournament earn their way to nationals, where they have a tremendous opportunity to grow their officiating knowledge and network with high-level professionals in the officiating world. At the national tournament, officials learn, develop, and referee with 50 other officials from 42 different institutions nationwide. They receive top-level instruction and critiques from campus recreation professionals and have the chance to meet and hear from NCAA and NBA executives, who present on officiating techniques and transferable skills like conflict management and effective communication.
The tournament is a learning opportunity for officials, but it is also a competition, with the best officials being awarded bracket games. All four officials from Madison worked bracket games on Sunday; Dahmer and DeBaker worked the Women’s Club quarterfinals and Anderson worked a Women’s Club semifinal. John Pape was awarded the Men’s Intramural Final, one of only 15 officials to receive a Finals assignment (crew pictured). Professionals from around the country complimented our officials on officiating the “Wisconsin Way,” which we think means really really well!
Rec Sports supports 45 different student-run sport clubs that practice and compete at the local, regional, national, and international level. Although each club varies in its level of competition and commitment requirements, each offers an opportunity to represent the University of Wisconsin as part of a team. For more information, visit http://recsports.wisc.edu/sport-clubs.htm.