MARK COUCH, SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
At 12-0 against conference opponents this season, the Green Knights men’s basketball team sits two games above the second-place school, Carroll University, for first place in the Midwest Conference. Since beginning the season with a few close wins, St. Norbert has taken off. Recently they’ve had a few decisive victories over conference opponents, most notably a 24-point win over Carroll University on Jan. 20.
“I think [the close wins early in the season] gave our relatively young and inexperienced group a lot of confidence,”said Head Coach Gary Grzesk.
The Green Knights don’t have a single senior on their team, and almost half of the team is made up of first-years. Despite their youth, this group of players has an overall record of 15-2 and is outscoring its opponents at an average of 12.7 points a game. They’ve also out-rebounded their opponents by an average of 8 rebounds per game. Coach Grzesk attributes their on-court chemistry and success to how closely the team has bonded this season.
“It’s not imperative that you are best friends off the court, but I think it helps.”Grzesk went on to add, “With no seniors on the roster, all of the team is housed in VMC or Burke, so they’re around each other quite a bit.”
With five games left in the season, Coach Grzesk is getting his team ready for the postseason. “We’ve tried to impress upon the kids the importance of each and every game. If we play the way we’re capable of, we’re a pretty decent team.”
Since Grzesk was named head coach in 2006, he has coached the Green Knights to conference championships and the NCAA Division III Tournament five times, so coaching in big games is not anything he is not used to. However, in his teams’ five Division III Tournament appearances, the Green Knights have never made it past the second round.
“It’s always going to be a challenge because of the quality of the teams in the Midwest,” said Grzesk. “We’ve had sustained success for a number of years, but in the postseason we haven’t been able to break through the second round.”
This year could be the year that the Green Knights surge into the Division III Tournament and break through to a National Championship.