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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

UWL Men’s Basketball: Taking a shot at the WIAC title

John Gaynor
Khris Green attempts a three-pointer.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Men’s Basketball team currently has a shot at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) title and an NCAA tournament bid. The annual WIAC tournament begins on Tuesday, Feb. 20. Along with every other conference in the NCAA, the winner of the WIAC tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III (DIII) National Tournament.  

Also known as March Madness, the NCAA National Tournament features 64 teams from all over the nation. The round of 64 through the Elite Eight will be played on the college campus of the higher-seeded team, with the Final Four and National Championship games being hosted in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana from March 16-18.

With only one regular season game left, UWL Men’s Basketball is currently in 2nd place in the WIAC with the UW-Whitewater only one game behind in the WIAC standings. The UW-Platteville is in first place, with an in-conference record of 11-2, compared to the 8-5 and 7-6 in-conference records boasted by UWL and UWW respectively.   

The race for the 2 seed in the WIAC is a close one, with UWW and UWL both in contention.  A loss for UWL and a win for UWW in each program’s final game of the season would result in the Eagles missing out on a first-round bye, and matching up against UW-Stevens Point or UW-River Falls. If the Eagles find themselves in a first-round duel, the matchup will be played in Mitchell Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.

Dustin DeRosseau drives to the basket. (John Gaynor)

UWL Men’s Basketball Head Coach JT Gritzmacher commented on the team’s chances going into the conference tournament, “I think we’re starting to trend up, we’re playing our best basketball. We know what it takes if we want to go to the NCAA Tournament, we have to win our league.” 

Head Coach Gritzmacher said the team is approaching the postseason one game at a time, with Wednesday’s win over UW-Oshkosh putting the Eagles ahead of UW-Whitewater by one game in the conference standings. With only one game to go, Saturday’s matchup against UW-Eau Claire will help determine the final WIAC standings before the playoffs. 

While being ranked outside’s top 25 for the entirety of the 2023-2024 season, The Eagles have some quality victories on their resume, including wins over UW-Stevens Point and #21 UW-Whitewater. However, the team also suffered some crucial losses early in the season to #5 Calvin University (Mich.) and then ranked #11 (now #16) UW-Platteville. These losses have possibly cemented a case for not being a quality NCAA tournament team, but the final say comes from the selection committee if the Eagles are unable to guarantee themselves a tournament bid. 

Sophomore Forward J.J Paider commented on Head Coach Gritzmacher’s impact in his first season at UWL, “We’ve gone through a lot of adversity, and he hasn’t changed his character at all. He makes sure we stay grounded and motivated and is a great influence on us.” Amid the success of other schools within the WIAC, Head Coach Gritzmacher has led the team to one of its best seasons in the past decade. 

J.J Paider takes a dribble. (John Gaynor)

Paider commented on the team’s vision going forward into the last game of the regular season, taking a similar approach to how his coach views things. “The key is just taking it one day at a time. It’s easy to look at standings and future games and think of the ‘what ifs?’ but that won’t get you anywhere.”  

The team is focused on the small steps towards earning a spot in the postseason to ensure the best result possible, and Paider believes the team to be sitting in a good position. “If we take care of business and play our game the way we should, it’ll give us a great opportunity to win a championship.” 

This year’s UWL Men’s Basketball team is comprised of 19 players, five of whom are entering the end of a career and what could be their final game on Tuesday. This year’s senior class is comprised of Henry Noone, Will Fuhrmann, Austin Westra, Jake Gross and Luke Schwartzhoff.  

Head Coach Gritzmacher commented on the first senior class he has coached during his time here at UWL, “They lead from the front, doing the right things at practice, off the court and in the classroom. The new freshmen will come in and I believe that’s how you build a successful program.”

Torin Hannah throws a pass. (John Gaynor)

The UWL Men’s Basketball team plays its final regular season game of the 2023-2024 season at UW-Eau Claire on Saturday, Feb. 16, and will begin WIAC conference play on either Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in Mitchell Hall, or on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., location to be determined (TBD). The Official NCAA DIII National Tournament schedule can be found on the NCAA website.

You can stay up to date with all things UWL Men’s Basketball by following the team on Instagram and Twitter (X). The team’s schedule can be found on the UWL Athletics website.

For information regarding the WIAC Tournament, refer to the WIAC website. 


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About the Contributor
John Gaynor
John Gaynor, Sports Reporter
Year at UWL: Freshman
PGPs: He/Him
Hometown: Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
Major: Marketing
Minor: N/A
Other Campus Involvement: Running Club, Track & Field Team
Future Plans after Graduation: Work in the aviation industry
Favorite Activity in La Crosse: Walking near the river
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