Panthers prep for NCAA Tournament opener against Wheaton

Isaac Hibbard

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HANOVER, Ind. – Hanover, along with 63 other teams, tip off this weekend in what will hopefully be a memorable run to Fort Wayne, Ind. for a national championship. The Panthers are set to face Wheaton (Ill.) in the opening round of the NCAA Division III National Tournament at 5:30 p.m., Friday, March 1, on the campus of Wooster (Ohio).

The city of Wooster, Ohio will host four teams during the opening two rounds, with the winner of Hanover-Wheaton squaring off against the host-Fighting Scots or Baruch (N.Y.) at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 2.

COVERAGE: Visit athletics.hanover.edu for all streaming options.

BACK IN THE BIG DANCE: Hanover is becoming a familiar name on the lines of the NCAA Tournament bracket, as the Panthers are in the field of 64 for the third consecutive season. The Blue and Red will be making their ninth appearance all-time, highlighted by a run to the sectional championship game (Elite 8) in the 2016-17 season. Hanover is 8-8 in NCAA national tournament contests and hold a 4-2 record in first round games. Two wins this weekend would send HC to its fourth NCAA Sweet 16 in program history.

HEARTLAND'S UNDISPUTED CHAMPION: For the second time in three seasons, the Panthers won the HCAC regular season outright before being crowned the tournament champion on their home court. Hanover also shared the regular season title in 2017-18 before claiming the postseason trophy as well. The Blue and Red defeated Bluffton in the semifinal round last Saturday, Feb. 23, by a score of 69-49, and then handed Transylvania a 76-73 loss the following day in the championship round. Last weekend's performance marks just the third time in school history the squad has won three tournament championships in a four-year span and is the second time HC has won three straight HCAC tournament titles, also doing so from 2003-05.

FAILS, MILLER HEADLINE ALL-HCAC HONORS: Senior guard Cam Fails (Cincinnati, Ohio) was named the HCAC's Most Valuable Player, while Jon Miller ('97) was tabbed Coach of the Year to headline the Panthers' annual conference awards. Fails is now a two-time HCAC MVP and three-time first team selection, while Miller has won the HCAC coaching award three times in his career, including two at his alma mater. Fails is currently leading the HCAC in scoring at 21.2 points per game and is setting career-high marks in points, rebounds (4.4), assists (4.4) and steals (2.2) per game. He was also named the HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player after averaging 25 points over a two-game stretch. Sophomore Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) and junior Kevin Williams (Edinburgh, Ind.) each earned their first all-conference accolades, being named to the second and honorable mention teams, respectively.

HANOVER, WHEATON AMONG NATION'S STATISTICAL LEADERS: Both the Panthers and Thunder have produced some of the top statistical marks in Division III this season. Wheaton currently has the nation's top scorer, Aston Francis, at 32.3 points per game, while also holding the 12th-best field goal percentage allowed at .395. Hanover also has one of the nation's top scorers in Fails but the team's calling card this year has been defense, which they allow the fourth fewest points per game in Division III at 61.7.

Contact: Tyler Jester

jestert@hanover.edu