With the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season now complete, the Defiance College basketball teams are preparing for the conference tournament that is set to begin this weekend.

For this season, the field was expanded to all 10 conference teams, as compared to the usual six. Because of a differing number of games played, the matchups for both the men and women were based on a blind draw.

Both DC coaches, as many of the conference officials, were for the changes for this season.

“In a normal year, I’m not for all 10 teams making it,” said DC men’s coach Scott Cutter. “I think there is something to be said for having it at six like it usually is. It’s an accomplishment to get to the tournament. As you are building your program, that’s a goal you would set.

“For this year, there was going to be no way to fairly do that,” added Cutter. “Look at the situation we’re in, we played half our games. Some teams played eight games, some have played 12. It’s just all over the place. I think being able to play this tournament is a great experience for every kid in every program.”

Women’s coach Allan King Jr. agreed there was no fair way to place the teams on a bracket based on records.

“There are so many factors this year, there is no way to compare records and teams,” stated King. “We haven’t played a single game where we have had our full squad together. We haven’t played a game where we’ve had the same people available. We’ve had no consistency, and I know other teams have gone through that. Missing games and whatnot, I think it’s more fitting to do it this way.”

KIng’s team will hit the floor first, as the DC women open the tournament on Friday. They drew a nine seed and will travel to Anderson, a team they did not see this season.

The two were scheduled for a Jan. 29-30 set, but it was cancelled.

“Definitely would have loved an extra home game,” admitted King. “The trip to Anderson is not bad. We’re just happy for another opportunity to go out and play.”

Defiance comes in 2-8, while Anderson sits at 5-6. The game Friday continues with the regular routine of the season, something the DC women’s coach is all for.

“I’m ready to go Friday,” said King. “I coached high school for a few years and I think the longer you wait, there is chance for rust to set in. I loved the normal Wednesday-Saturday format. We got used to the Friday-Saturday format. I think that’s important for us, that continuous thing. I like the consistency of it and playing on Friday. I also like playing on Friday because it gives us an extra day of rest.”

The winner of the DC-Anderson game will play at Bluffton in the second round of the HCAC tournament on March 3. The other game in the first round of the tournament has Rose-Hulman traveling to Hanover.

Defiance is coming off a two-game set to Mt. St. Joseph were the Yellow Jackets were swept 92-63 and 75-68. Despite the losses, King believes his team can make a deep tournament run.

“I’m confident we could make our way all the way there,” King said of making it to the championship game. “Tournament time is always about who hottest, and I think we are getting close to putting it together. We have as good a chance of anybody in the tournament.”

The men’s team drew the sixth seed and will get some time off before heading to Hanover on March 3.

The time off will be helpful for Cutter’s team, who has been off since Jan. 30 because of COVID issues.

“Getting back to practice Friday, the guys are ready to move forward,” Cutter said of the postseason. “They are obviously frustrated about the way things went this season, but they are genuinely excited. We just had two of our best practices of the season.”

Defiance and Hanover were not on the schedule this season. The Panthers (7-4) come in on a three-game winning streak. They closed the season with a sweep of Anderson, 78-54 and 70-65.

“They’re a good, young team,” Cutter said of the Panthers.

Cutter believes that by next week, when the game is scheduled to begin, his Yellow Jackets will be ready to play.

“It just takes time to get guys back,” admitted Cutter. “In my opinion, it takes six of seven practices before you are ready to go play a college basketball game. The extra couple days, for us at least, will be beneficial. I’m glad we ended up getting that bye.”

The opening round of the HCAC men’s tournament has Mt. St. Joseph at Rose-Hulman and Earlham at Anderson.

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