The 2012-2013 St. Thomas men’s basketball team produced one of the best seasons in program history. With a wealth of young talent waiting to lead the Tommies back to the NCAA tournament, let’s look back at what made this one of St. Thomas’ strongest basketball teams yet.
The program made its third Elite Eight appearance in five years and second Final Four appearance in three years, culminating in a difficult 74-67 loss at the hands of upstart Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Crusaders were not afraid of the top-ranked Tommies, using an 30-11 run in the final nine minutes of play to cement their place in the April 7 championship game in Atlanta. St. Thomas held a lead as large as 14 in the second half but could not find enough ways to score against the American Southwest Conference champions.
With the loss, the Tommies moved to 22-4 in the last three seasons against non-conference opponents and suffered their first loss in the last 37 games when scoring more than 63 points. “The Cru” became the fourth team this season to score more than 70 points against the Tommies.
St. Thomas finished the season 30-2, tied for the most wins in program history with the 2008-2009 squad (30-1) and 2010-2011 national champion team (30-3). The Tommies captured this year’s MIAC title; its seventh consecutive won or shared, breaking a conference record from 1953 (Hamline won seven straight titles from 1946-1953). St. Thomas also made the MIAC playoffs for the 25th time in the last 26 years. The Tommies have won the MIAC playoff crown a conference-best 12 times, including seven of the last eight.
St. Thomas made its 14th NCAA tournament appearance this year and has made the tournament seven out of the last eight years. The Tommies went 4-1 in this year’s NCAA tournament, moving the program’s all-time mark to 24-14.
This year’s squad ranked first out of 407 Division III institutions in field goal percentage (52.7 percent), as well as scoring margin (21.1 points). St. Thomas finished second in field goal percentage (43 percent) and turnover ratio (1.62) in the nation. The Tommies also defended its home court this season, posting a perfect 17-0 record on Steve Fritz Court.
St. Thomas secured its eighth-straight 20-win season, the third longest streak in Division III. The Tommies started the season ranked No. 11 by d3hoops.com, but finished No. 1 in the final poll of the year before the NCAA tournament.
Center Tommy Hannon, who received a medical redshirt last season, became the school’s ninth player to score at least 1,000 points in his career. He also grabbed his 600th career rebound in Saturday’s loss to Mary Hardin-Baylor. Hannon finishes his St. Thomas career with 1,061 points and 606 rebounds.
Hannon was also voted to the six-player Capital One Academic All-District team with a 3.51 GPA in finance. Hannon was on the national ballot for Academic All-American consideration. The senior center was the lone Tommie named to the All-West Region team, earning d3hoops.com’s second-team honors.
Tauer was named the MIAC Coach of the Year and d3hoops.com All-West Region Coach of the Year. In two years at the Tommies’ helm (2012 as interim head coach and this year as official head coach), Tauer has posted a 52-9 record. He’s the third St. Thomas men’s basketball coach since 1954.
St. Thomas had three seniors named to the 15-player All-MIAC team: Hannon, guard Will DeBerg and guard John Nance. Nance and DeBerg were repeat honorees.
Nance and guard Erik Tengwall were named to the six-player MIAC All-Defensive team. Forward Zach Riedeman and forward Noah Kaiser made the 12-player honorable mention team. Forward Taylor Montero made the six-player MIAC All-Freshman team.
In four years at St. Thomas, the five St. Thomas seniors (Hannon, DeBerg, Nance, Kaiser and Drew Mathews) posted a 105-16 record.
Looking ahead next season
Next year’s basketball team will have a much different look, but a group of talented underclassmen should keep St. Thomas in the top 25 and near the top of the MIAC.
As St. Thomas says goodbye to four seniors who regularly saw more than 18 minutes per game this season, there are voids that will not be easy to fill.
The Tommies will have a wealth of experience, led by to-be seniors Riedeman and Tengwall. This year, Riedeman made strides as a scorer, averaging 9.1 points per game, while Tengwall’s turnover-to-assist ratio was near the top of the MIAC.
Conner Nord, who started nearly every game of his freshman year in 2011-2012, will likely anchor as center for St. Thomas. This leaves starting position openings at shooting guard and power forward. Look for Marcus Alipate, Cortez Tillman and Thomas Sjoberg to battle for the guard spot while Josh Pella, Dylan Stewart and Montero to compete for the forward position early next year.
With what Tauer calls a “strong” recruiting class and key returners looking to step up, the 2013-2014 St. Thomas men’s basketball appears primed for another strong run at its ninth consecutive sole or shared MIAC title.
Ross Schreck can be reached at email@example.com.