The nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh men's basketball team opens the 2018 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Championship (presented by Culver's) by hosting UW-La Crosse on Wednesday (Feb. 21) in Kolf Sports Center. The starting time for the tournament's first round contest is set for 7 p.m.
UW-Oshkosh (19-6), ranked 19th in the NCAA Division III by D3hoops.com, is seeded third for the six-team WIAC Championship while UW-La Crosse (13-12) is seeded sixth.
Fourth-seeded UW-River Falls (16-8) hosts fifth-seeded UW-Whitewater (16-9) in the tournament's other first round matchup on Wednesday.
Top-seeded UW-Platteville (22-3) and second-seeded UW-Stevens Point (17-8) earned first round byes and will host semifinal contests on Friday (Feb. 23). UW-Platteville is ranked fifth in the country and UW-Stevens Point 23rd.
The winner of the WIAC Championship, which will be determined Sunday (Feb. 25), earns the league's automatic berth to the 64-team NCAA Division III Championship that begins March 2.
UW-Oshkosh swept the season series with UW-La Crosse, defeating the Eagles by scores of 72-65 in La Crosse on Jan. 6 behind 24 points and 10 rebounds from Jack Flynn, and 70-54 in Oshkosh on Feb. 10 on the strength of Flynn's team-leading 21 points. The Titans out-rebounded UW-La Crosse, 72-51, during the two meetings this season.
The Titans enter Wednesday averaging 74.7 points per game and allowing 65.7 per contest. UW-Oshkosh paces the conference with 39.1 rebounds and 14.7 assists per game while ranking second in the league in scoring, opponent field goal percentage (.413) and blocks (69).
UW-Oshkosh, seeking its fourth WIAC Championship title, boasts a 9-2 home record this season. The Titans own a 10-3 record in first round games of the league tournament and a 19-12 mark overall in 15 WIAC Championship appearances.
The Titans have advanced to the league tournament final each of the past three seasons, including a 66-63 home victory over UW-River Falls to claim the 2016 title. UW-Oshkosh, which also secured league postseason titles in 2002 and 2003, fell by a 60-59 score at UW-River Falls in last year's tournament final and by a 71-57 score at UW-Whitewater in the 2015 championship contest.
Four UW-Oshkosh starters are scoring better than 10 points per game.
Junior guard Ben Boots leads the Titans with 15.3 points per game while Flynn, a sophomore center, adds 13.3 points per contest. Sophomore forward Adam Fravert and junior guard Brett Wittchow average 12.5 and 10.9 points, respectively.
Boots, UW-Oshkosh's 28th all-time leading scorer with 1,048 career points, paces the WIAC with 4.4 assists per contest while leading the Titans with 35 steals and a .853 free throw percentage.
Flynn is the conference leader with a .629 field goal percentage and 3.7 offensive rebounds per game while Fravert has a WIAC-best 33 blocks and is averaging a team-high 7.6 rebounds per contest.
Wittchow is shooting 50.6 percent (40-79) from 3-point range.
Senior guard Charlie Noone averages 9.1 points per contest and leads the Titans with 54 3-pointers. He ranks as UW-Oshkosh's 32nd all-time leading scorer with 1,023 career points.
UW-La Crosse, which sports a 6-5 road record this season, is scoring 68.7 points and allowing 66.1 per game.
The Eagles are leading the WIAC with 9.2 steals per game while ranking second in the league by holding opponents to a .438 field goal percentage.
Junior forward Ben Meinholz paces UW-La Crosse with 13.9 points per game and 14 blocks while registering a league-leading 58 steals.
Eight Eagles have scored more than 100 points this season, including junior guard Brendon Manning, who averages 9.3 points and a team-leading 7.1 rebounds per game.
UW-La Crosse junior guard Taulvish McCray is averaging 8.6 points per game to go along with a team-high 63 assists and 36 3-pointers.
Tanner Bruchs and Sam Skoyen – both junior guards for the Eagles – score 8.4 points and 6.5 points per contest, respectively. Senior forward Milton Cummings chips in 6.3 points per game, sophomore forward Nolan Wright 6.0 and sophomore forward Terek Nesheim 4.6.
Bruchs is tied for the team lead with 36 3-pointers. Wright has compiled a squad-best .566 field goal percentage.
UW-La Crosse, seeking its first WIAC Championship title, has an 8-14 record in 14 league postseason appearances. The Eagles are 5-8 during their first round games.
UW-La Crosse has won each of its three previous meetings with UW-Oshkosh in the WIAC Championship. The Eagles ousted the Titans from the league tournament in the 2006 quarterfinals (70-67 score in overtime), the 2007 semifinals (66-61) and the 2014 first round (76-61).
UW-Platteville, which enters the WIAC Championship with an eight-game winning streak, leads the conference in scoring (77.8), scoring defense (62.8), field goal percentage (.503), field goal percentage defense (.399), free throw percentage (.762) and 3-point percentage (.432).
UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater share the conference lead with 220 3-pointers while UW-River Falls lists second in the league with 37.6 rebounds per game and a +6.8 average rebounding margin.
UW-Stevens Point has won a league-leading eight of the 19 previous WIAC Championships. UW-Whitewater owns four conference tournament titles, UW-Oshkosh three, UW-River Falls two, and UW-Eau Claire and UW-Platteville one apiece.
UW-Oshkosh, the only WIAC team to play in both of the past two NCAA Division III Championships, is attempting to become the first third-seeded team to win the league tournament. UW-Stevens Point (2008) and UW-Whitewater (2002) are the only third-seeded squads to reach the event's championship game.