Most of the preparation is done. The Barton men’s basketball heads to Hutchinson today for an overnight stay before the Cougars tip off the first game of the 2018 NJCAA National Tournament Monday morning at 10 am.
Barton has spent the past week preparing for Tyler Junior College, a traditional power at the NJCAA level. Tyler, 26-6, earned its trip to Hutchinson by winning the Region 14 championship. Here is a look a closer look at the Cougars’ opponent.
The Apaches have five players averaging double figures in scoring. Leading the way is 5-11 point guard Brian Warren at 15.6 per contest. Warren also lead Tyler at 5.3 assists per game and gets to the free throw line more than five times per game.
Micah Thomas, a 6-7 wing, had made 83 3-pointers on the season, hitting them at a 37.7 percent clip. He is second on the team in scoring at 11.7 per contest. He played his freshman season at Maryland. Thomas possesses a 7-1 wingspan.
Tajuan Agee is the top inside presence for Tyler, scoring 10.3 per game while leading Tyler at 6.2 rebounds per outing. He has committed to play for New Mexico next season.
“They have some really talented players,” Barton Coach Craig Fletchall said. “They are very athletic. They have a few kids that are definitely D-I kids.”
Nine players have played in at least 30 games this year, giving Tyler great depth. Eight players are averaging at least five points per contest. That doesn’t including starting post Lukas Bergang, a 7-0 sophomore from Sweden averaging 3.4 per game. Bergang transferred in from UNC-Charlotte.
Tyler is also experienced. Six of those nine regulars are sophomores. The Apaches bring a 6-10 player off the bench and four of the nine regulars stand 6-7 or taller.
Mike Marquis has been at Tyler since 2001. He went there after spending two seasons as the head coach at Indian Hills following one season as an assistant on the staff. That one year he was an assistant at Indian Hills was the year Warriors beat Barton in the 1999 NJCAA Championship game.
He picked up his 600th career win this past season. He is in his 30th season as a head coach with his 17 at Tyler, two at Indian Hills and 11 Marshalltown prior to that. His overall mark is 617-302. At Tyler he has amassed a record of 322-206.
What Tyler does well
The Apaches have depth, height, and length. They will play a 2-3 zone and make you try and get inside it or beat them from the outside. That defense gives up just 56 points per game, a number that is the top 20 in the nation. Opponents shoot just 40 percent from the field against the Apaches.
“It’s similar to Syracuse or Baylor,” Coach Fletchall said. “It’s a tough zone to score on. They are very active and really defend out of it. We are going to have to find spaces in the zone to get off good shots. That won’t be easy.”
Tyler’s defensive rebounding is among the top in the country as well as more than 30 per outing.
Tyler gets to the three throw line with the best in the nation. The Apaches are 9th nationally, hitting 19.2 free throws per game.
How Tyler got here
Tyler won the Region 14 title by knocking off Kilgore in the title game, 59-56. A Kilgore team that helped ease the path the title for the Apaches.
Tyler was the No. 2 seed in the region. The top seed in the region tournament was Trinity Valley. Kilgore, the 9 seed, surprised Trinity Valley in the quarterfinals and made it all the way to the title.
Tyler also had a battle in the semifinals of Region 14, edging 3rd seed San Jacinto, 65-64.
“That’s a really good region,” Coach Fletchall said. “If you can survive that region there is no doubt you are a really good basketball team. They were second in the regular season and won the tournament. We will have our hands full for sure.”
Cougars and Apaches have similar seasons
Barton and Tyler followed similar regular seasons. Neither team started the season getting votes in the Top 25.
By the end of December both teams were in the Top 25. From there, both teams were ranked in every poll until the final poll of the year. Tyler just fell out of the Top 25, coming in 26th after losing its final three regular season games. Prior to that, Tyler reached a season-high 14th in the next-to-last poll.
However, during that 3-game skid over an 8-day span, the Apaches were fighting the flu. All told 11 of 12 players were treated for the flu during that time.
It must also be noted that no players missed games during that stretch. Among those three losses, one was at Trinity Valley – a team that won in Tyler earlier in the year and one was at Panola – a 20-win team that went 13-2 at home.
The only real surprise in that 3-game losing streak was a home loss to Navarro, 70-68. Navarro finished under .500 in the Southwest Junior College Conference.
Barton was ranked slightly higher than Tyler most of the season, reaching a high of No. 7 the final week of January. Barton fell to No. 19 in the final poll, its lowest ranking since the first of January. Barton lost two of its last five regular season games.
Most famous basketball alum
A handful of Tyler players have played in the NBA over the year but none can compare to Jimmy Butler. Butler, currently playing the Minnesota Timberwolves, was first round draft pick out of Marquette after spending his freshman year at Tyler.
In that lone season in Tyler, Butler averaged 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Tyler went 25-4 that season, getting upset in the Region 14 quarterfinals in a 123-121 triple overtime thriller against Panola.
NJCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket
Monday, March 19 at Sports Arena in Hutchinson
16 Barton (27-6) v 17 Tyler (26-6), 10 am
9 Trinity Valley (27-4) v 24 Baltimore City, Noon
15 Western Nebraska (26-7) v 18 Holmes (24-4), 2 pm
10 Southern Idaho (27-5) 23 Snead State (25-7), 4:30 pm
13 South Plains (23-8) v 20 Highland (26-7), 6:30 pm
12 Connors State (29-3) v 21 Central Ga. Tech (25-8), 8:30 pm
Tuesday, March 20 at Sports Arena in Hutchinson
14 Motlow State (22-7) v 19 Otero (28-4), 10 am
11 Hutchinson (28-6) v 22 Cape Fear (21-11), Noon
Tuesday, March 20 at Sports Arena in Hutchinson
1 Indian Hills (33-0) v Barton/Tyler winner, 2 pm
8 Eastern Florida (27-4) v Trinity Valley/Baltimore winner, 4:30 pm
2 Northwest Florida (30-2) v W Nebraska/Holmes winner, 6:30 pm
7 Odessa (28-4) v So Idaho/Snead St winner, 8:30 pm
Wednesday, March 21 at Sports Arena in Hutchinson
4 Salt Lake (30-3) v So Plains/Highland winner, Noon
5 Coffeyville (29-4) v Connors St/Central Ga winner, 2 pm
3 Vincennes (32-1) v Motlow St/Otero winner, 6 pm
6 Florida Southwest (29-2) v Hutch/Cape Fear winner, 8 pm
Thursday, March 22 at Sports Arena in Hutchinson
1 seed bracket v 8 seed bracket, Noon
2 seed bracket v 7 seed bracket, 2 pm
4 seed bracket v 5 seed bracket, 6 pm
3 seed bracket v 6 seed bracket, 8 pm
Friday, March 23 at Sports Arena in Hutchinson
National semifinal one, 6 pm
National semifinal two, 8 pm
Saturday, March 24 at Sports Arena in Hutchinson
NJCAA National Championship, 7 pm
Third place game at 5 pm