You won’t need to make a long drive to experience March Madness in person this week.
It’ll be right inside UW-Parkside’s DeSimone Arena.
The Parkside men’s and women’s basketball teams will each host Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal games on Wednesday night in a March Madness doubleheader. The men’s team will then keep on playing at home, right through Sunday’s GLIAC Tournament championship game, should the Rangers keep winning.
Here’s a closer look at the Parkside men’s and women’s basketball teams’ GLIAC Tournament roads this week:
Fresh off winning the GLIAC regular-season title outright with a 14-4 record in conference play — the program’s first regular-season conference title since the 2018-19 season — the Rangers now turn their attention toward winning the conference tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament that comes with that.
Parkside is obviously in a perfect position to do so.
As the No. 1 seed in the GLIAC Tournament, the Rangers will host the semifinal games on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday — times will be announced later — inside the DeSimone Arena, as long as they win Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchup against No. 8 seed Michigan Tech. The four quarterfinal games are hosted by the top four seeds in the GLIAC Tournament.
The Rangers have been very comfortable inside the DeSimone Arena this season, as they are 14-2 at home. Overall, they’ve won three in a row and eight of nine and enter the postseason with a 21-7 overall record, the program’s first 20-win season since 2016-17, when the Rangers made the last of five consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
“It’s hard to describe how much we are looking forward to playing a postseason game at home this Wednesday,” Parkside head men’s basketball coach Luke Reigel said. “The last time we played here in the postseason was during the COVID season (2020-21), so no fans were allowed in to see the game. Now we are looking for the same unbelievable energy we’ve had at our last few home games.
“… Overall, it is just very nice to not have to travel for the conference tournament. The campus and the community have been outstanding during the stretch (run), and we hope to have DeSimone rocking again on Wednesday.”
Winning the GLIAC Tournament would mean there’s no doubt the Rangers will be in the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
But that isn’t the only way to get in.
Parkside was No. 6 in the Midwest Region in the latest NCAA Division II regional rankings. The top eight teams in each of the eight regions around the country will be in line for the national tournament field, so the Rangers are still in the mix for an at-large berth, too.
They certainly don’t want to put that to chance, though, and the first task to avoid that is to beat Michigan Tech (8-19 overall, 5-13 GLIAC) on Wednesday, a team the Rangers have beaten twice already this season.
The Rangers opened GLIAC play on Dec. 1 with a 72-49 romp over the Huskies at the DeSimone Arena, then they pulled away for a 76-58 victory on Feb. 18 in Houghton, Mich.
Parkside is actually looking to return the favor to Michigan Tech from last season, when the Huskies beat the Rangers three times, including a GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal game that ended Parkside’s season.
Michigan Tech lost a lot of experience from last season’s team, but the Huskies are always well-coached, and anything can happen if they keep Wednesday’s game close.
“We have a ton of respect for Michigan Tech,” Reigel said. “They are young and talented. They’ve gone through some tough times, like any young team would, but we know they have the ability to beat anyone in our league.
“We will have to play another hard-nosed defensive game to be successful.”
That defense has certainly been Parkside’s calling card this season, as the Rangers have the top scoring defense in the GLIAC, allowing just 66.7 points per game.
Individually, Parkside has been led all season by sophomore point guard Rasheed Bello, who ranks third in the GLIAC in scoring at 18.5 points per game – which has come on an impressive shooting clip of 47.6 percent from the field – and fourth at 4.6 assists per game. On the defensive end, Bello has 69 steals, which is the most in the GLIAC and third-most in all of NCAA Division II.
Redshirt sophomore forward Jamir Simpson, meanwhile, has also been critical to Parkside’s success, averaging 14.4 points per game and a team-high 6.0 rebounds per contest. And redshirt sophomore guard Josiah Palmer has emerged as one of the Rangers’ top scoring options, averaging 11.5 points per game and ranking second on the team in assists (64) and third in steals (33).
Should all of the top four seeds in Wednesday’s GLIAC Tournament quarterfinals win, then Parkside would face No. 4 seed Lake Superior State and No. 2 seed Ferris State would play No. 3 seed Northern Michigan in Saturday’s semifinals at the DeSimone Arena, with those winners playing Sunday for the championship.
Even if Parkside was to lose in the semifinals on Saturday, Sunday’s championship game would still be at the DeSimone Arena, so the teams will not have to travel between Saturday and Sunday
The Rangers enter the postseason at 18-10 overall and finished 13-5 in GLIAC play, the program’s best conference record since joining the GLIAC for the 2018-19 season.
That got Parkside a No. 3 seed for the GLIAC Tournament and a home game Wednesday night against No. 6 seed Ferris State (16-11 overall, 9-9 GLIAC). The Rangers beat the Bulldogs twice this season, 75-66 in Big Rapids, Mich., on Jan. 14 and 79-66 on Feb. 2 at the DeSimone Arena.
Ferris State features a dangerous player in senior forward Chloe Idoni, who ranks third in the GLIAC at 19.3 points per game.
“Ferris State is a great team that is well-coached,” Parkside head women’s basketball coach Jen Conely said. “They are led by Chloe Idoni and (senior guard) Mallory McCartney. Idoni is the best post in our league, and McCartney is one of the top point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio in all of D-II.
“We will need to be locked in defensively for 40 minutes, because they have so many weapons and can attack you in a variety of ways.”
To win the GLIAC Tournament and secure an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II Tournament — which would be the program’s first since the 2014-15 season — the Rangers will need to get through a gauntlet of great teams.
The top seed in the GLIAC Tournament is Grand Valley State, ranked No. 5 in the latest NCAA Division II coaches poll and No. 3 in the Midwest Region rankings. The No. 2 seed is Michigan Tech, ranked No. 22 nationally and No. 4 regionally. Parkside is ranked No. 10 in the Midwest Region, so the Rangers most likely need to win the conference tournament to get into the national tournament.
“Our league is ridiculously stacked with great teams,” Conely said. “Seven of the eight teams in the tournament have winning records, and the No. 8 seed (Purdue Northwest) beat a top-six regionally-ranked team.”
Technically, Parkside could be the host for Saturday’s GLIAC Tournament semifinals and Sunday’s championship game in the women’s bracket, too. But that would require both Grand Valley State and Michigan Tech to lose quarterfinal home games on Wednesday, which is highly unlikely.
So that means Wednesday will probably be the final home game in the illustrious career of Parkside redshirt senior guard Alyssa Nelson, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer earlier this season and later became the first player in program history to reach 2,000 career points.
Nelson finished the regular season averaging 22.3 points per game, which tops the GLIAC and ranks fourth in all of NCAA Division II. She was named the GLIAC Player of the Week, the 12th time in her career she’s received that honor, for the final week of the regular season.
Also for Parkside, sophomore guard Sheridan Flauger is averaging 9.0 points per game, along with 84 assists and a team-high 37 steals.