Whitworth University coach Jim Hayford isn’t expecting any surprises from Chapman University tonight, when the 12th-ranked Panthers invade Whitworth Fieldhouse to challenge his top-ranked Pirates in the second round of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament.
“I feel like I know these guys like the back of my hand,” Hayford said of Chapman (25-3), which earned a berth in the tournament by winning the D-III West Regional playoffs, and then dumped Redlands 62-38 in a first-round game on Thursday.
“In some ways, it feels kind of like a league game, because we’re so familiar with them.”
Along with fact that the same two teams met in the same venue in the second round of last year’s D-III tournament – with Whitworth winning handily 77-56 – Hayford has also watched eight of Chapman’s games on video.
“They’re running the exact same stuff they were running last year,” he said of the Panthers, who have won their last 12 games. “And the personnel they’re using to run it is the same, too.”
Which means the Pirates will be keeping close tabs on Chapman seniors Justin Riley, a 6-foot-3 guard, and Griffin Ramme, a 6-4 forward, who both average 16 points a game.
“They’re both very good players,” Hayford said. “But last year, Ramme went 1 for 13 (from the field) when they played us, so I’m sure he’s got some revenge on his mind.”
Whitworth should seem familiar to Chapman as well, considering all of the regulars on the Bucs’ roster – with the exception of senior guard Michael Taylor, a first-year transfer who was recently named the Northwest Conference Player of the Year – played considerable minutes in last year’s matchup.
The 6-foot-4 Taylor currently leads the Pirates in scoring (19.8 ppg), assists (3.5 apg) and 3-point field goal percentage (.529).
“Our rotation is seven deep, and six of those seven were all key contributors last year,” Hayford said. “But the one who wasn’t, makes quite a difference.”
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