Sophomore Seipel a big reason for Wittenberg’s success

Groveport Madison grad surprised to win NCAC tournament MVP


Highlights

Wittenberg plays in first round of NCAA tournament at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

If everyone in Pam Evans Smith Arena on Saturday night thought Wittenberg Tigers forward Connor Seipel looked surprised when he was named MVP of the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament, they were right.

“I was shocked,” Seipel said.

Seipel expected senior Chad Roy, his partner in the frontcourt, to earn the honor. After all, just three years ago, Seipel was coming off the bench as a junior at Groveport Madison High School. He didn’t even consider playing college basketball until he was a senior when Capital started recruiting him. Then Wittenberg coach Matt Croci heard about him from a friend of Seipel’s mom, and that’s how he ended up with the Tigers.

» NCAA TOURNAMENT: Wittenberg plays Misericordia on Friday

Seipel’s quick rise has been unlikely, but that has been the story all year for Wittenberg. A team that lost four starters was thought to be at least a year away from a season like this.

Instead, the Tigers (26-2) enter the NCAA Division III tournament with a No. 3 ranking — they even received two first-place votes in the D3Hoops.com poll this week — and the opportunity to host games in the first four rounds if they keep advancing. They play Misericordia (17-10) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pam Evans Smith Arena.

The 6-foot-6 Seipel has played a big part in a season that ranks among the program’s best.

“Connor’s had a tremendous year,” Wittenberg coach Matt Croci said Monday. “He’s had a big jump from his freshman to sophomore year, and that’s when most guys have their biggest jump. He is a really hard-working kid. He’s a grinder. He puts a lot of time and effort in. He’s gotten stronger. He’s gotten more fit. There’s a lot that goes into it. I think he benefits from a certain degree to having Chad. Chad usually draws the No. 1 assignment. Connor gets who next, and he has made teams pay.”

» NCAC TOURNAMENT: Wittenberg wins first title since 2006Photos of championship game

Seipel ranks third on the team in scoring (11.1 points per game). He leads the team in rebounding (6.8). He scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting Friday in a 97-73 NCAC semifinal victory against Denison and 28 points on 14-of-17 shooting Saturday in an 82-70 victory against Ohio Wesleyan in the championship game.

Seipel and Roy combined to score 56 points and make 27 of 34 shots in the final.

“We made a concerted effort to go inside, which we do every game, but it was working,” Croci said. “I will give our guys a lot of credit for not going away from it at all.”

Last season, Seipel appeared in all 27 games as a freshman. He averaged 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game. He dropped his weight from 240 to 225 during his freshman year and weighs close to 220 this season.

“It makes me be able to stay on the floor longer,” Seipel said. “I’m not as tired. I’m better on defense.”

Seipel has come a long way in a short time. He was stuck behind more experienced players until his senior year at Groveport Madison. He said he came off the bench as a junior. It didn’t take him as long to earn a starting job in college. He moved into the starting lineup in the sixth game this season.

Junior point guard Mitch Balser, who played against Wittenberg and Seipel last season when he was at Wooster, said he was blown away by how much Seipel improved.

“I knew he was good last year,” Balser said. “It is impressive. I’m just glad I get to play with him for another year. He’s something else.”

NCAC awards: Roy was named the NCAC Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday and was also named to the all-conference first team. Balser made the second team. Sophomore guard Jake Bertemes received an honorable mention. Croci was named the coach of the year. In the women’s awards, Wittenberg freshman guard Delaney Williams made the third team.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Baylor nabs another 2019 defensive commit in Texas LB Will Williams
Baylor nabs another 2019 defensive commit in Texas LB Will Williams

Miami recruiting mailbag: Where are the defensive tackles?
Miami recruiting mailbag: Where are the defensive tackles?

The dead period is nearly upon us, but we’re cramming in plenty of Miami recruiting news during the next few weeks. On Wednesday, 3-star weakside defensive end Jahfari Harvey plans to announce his decision and the Hurricanes are out in front. Last weekend, Miami played host to more than a dozen major recruits, including an official...
Back-to-back homers lift Reds to 5th straight vs. Tigers
Back-to-back homers lift Reds to 5th straight vs. Tigers

What at first appeared to be a premature detonation turned out to be the appropriate celebration when the umpires changed Eugenio Suarez’s double into a go-ahead home run Wednesday afternoon. The Suarez blast, which prompted the fireworks to be set off while he was standing on second base, came one pitch after Scooter Gennett hit a game-tying...
Javaris Davis might be Auburn football’s best bet at nickel position
Javaris Davis might be Auburn football’s best bet at nickel position

Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take Auburn football fans to Summer School. Each session will focus on one position on Auburn’s 2018 roster, finding answers from spring practice and looking ahead to what might be the biggest questions for the fall. We continue our look at the secondary this week with the...
Why recruiting against Nick Saban’s age might be backfiring on other programs
Why recruiting against Nick Saban’s age might be backfiring on other programs

The claims have been made since Nick Saban arrived at the University of Alabama in 2007. He’s not going to stay. He’ll go back to the NFL. He’ll go to another school. None of that has happened. The latest, of course, is that Saban won’t be coaching much longer because of his age. He’s 66 and again will celebrate his ...
More Stories