TERRE HAUTE —
Rose-Hulman will play host to Calvin College at 7 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA national committee announced Monday.
The 24-3 Engineers earned the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s automatic bid with a 64-59 victory over Hanover in the conference tournament championship game Saturday. Transylvania, runner-up to Rose-Hulman in the regular season, will be a second HCAC team in the field, earning an at-large bid.
Rose-Hulman’s 24 victories so far matches the school record set by the 1976-77 Engineers, who reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. This year’s team leads Division III in scoring defense, allowing 51 points per game, and is ranked 19th in the final d3hoops.com poll.
Calvin is also 24-3 and is ranked No. 12 nationally by d3hoops.com in this week’s poll. The Knights won the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference tournament last weekend with a 77-57 win over Hope.
The balanced Calvin offensive attack is led by Tom Smikkers at 13.3 points per game. Tyler Kruis averages 12.8 points per game, with Bryan Powell (11.6) and Jordan Brink (10.7) also in double figures.
Brenton Balsbaugh was named Most Valuable Player of the HCAC tournament for Rose-Hulman after back-to-back season-high 17-point performances. He leads the team in field goal percentage at 58 percent and averages 7.4 points per game.
Julian Strickland leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game, with Austin Weatherford adding 12.5 points per contest. Both players joined Balsbaugh on the HCAC all-tournament team. Jon Gerken and James Pillischafske round out the starting lineup, which also receives major contributions from sixth man Nate Gissentanner.
This is the second straight NCAA tournament appearance for the Engineers, who won the conference tournament a year ago, and its 10th overall. This is the first time the team has won regular-season and conference-tournament titles in the same season.
The winner of the game between Rose-Hulman and Calvin will play the winner between Wisconsin-Stevens Point (21-5) and 21-6 Northwestern (Minnesota) on March 9.
Transylvania, which finished 20-7 overall, will play at Illinois Wesleyan (21-5), with the winner of that game advancing to play the winner between 20-5 Washington (Mo.) and Spalding (20-7).