They may be only the 10th seed among 12 headed to the Horizon League Tournament, but Purdue Fort Wayne's men's basketball team is OK with that.
To still be playing, amid the pandemic, seems an accomplishment to the Mastodons.
“When the season first started, we had (many) times we were in quarantine and I thought, 'There was no way we were going to make it through the season with all the (safety) protocols and how easily the season could be knocked out or how easily we could get (COVID-19),'” said forward Dylan Carl, whose Mastodons had seven consecutive games canceled between Nov. 30 and Dec. 13 – but none since.
“Knock on wood, we've been pretty good since then. We've made it through a full season and hopefully we can keep it going. It's pretty astonishing.”
The Mastodons have shown some good things this season – they won four in a row against Illinois-Chicago and Milwaukee between Jan. 8 and 16 and beat the conference's top seed, Cleveland State, last Friday – but PFW finished the regular season only 7-14 (6-14 in Horizon League).
Heading into today's 8 p.m. first-round game at seventh-seeded Green Bay (8-16, 8-12), the Mastodons believe they're going to be a team that surprises people because they've shown talent, if not their consistency.
“We're feeling real good. We're real excited. We're hungry,” said guard Jarred Godfrey, who was named third-team all-conference on Tuesday, after a vote among conference coaches. “We know what we could have done this season, we just didn't necessarily show it. That's behind us now, and it's a brand new season. We're ready to go out there and get a W.”
Godfrey leads the Mastodons in points (15.8), rebounds (5.3) and assists (3.4) per game. Green Bay is paced by Amari Davis, who is averaging 17.2 points and 3.6 rebounds and was second-team all-conference.
After leaving the Summit League last summer, this will be PFW's first opportunity in the Horizon League Tournament, which will be held on campus sites until it shifts to Indianapolis' Indiana Farmers Coliseum for the semifinals March 8 and final March 9.
PFW lost at Green Bay 77-59 on Jan. 22 and 87-72 on Jan. 23, beginning an eight-game losing streak.
“We watched a lot of film on those games,” Godfrey said. “We don't feel like Green Bay got our best shot at all. Just knowing that, and watching the film, we feel like we should get better on this (trip).”
In the first meeting, the Mastodons had only two players score in double figures (Jalon Pipkins with 11 points and Jarvis Walker with 10), while Green Bay's Emmanuel Ansong had 18 points and nine rebounds. In the second meeting, Pipkins had 16 points and Godfrey 15, but Green Bay's Josh Jefferson totaled 21 points as four Phoenix players scored in double figures.
“I feel like we've played Green Bay twice and I don't feel like they've played us at all. Watching those videos, honestly, it was kind of gross. I didn't love how we played when we were up there,” PFW coach Jon Coffman said. “At that time, we were coming off back-to-back sweeps and playing really good basketball. So, some was what they did to us and some was what we did to ourselves.”
If the Mastodons win today, they'll advance to Tuesday's quarterfinals, for which the remaining teams will be reseeded based on regular-season league winning percentage, strength of schedule, weighting road wins vs. home wins and number of league games played – because of the unbalanced schedules this season.
Horizon League Tournament
PFW at Green Bay
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Kress Center, Green Bay, Wis.
Radio: 1380 AM
Records: PFW (7-14, 6-14 Horizon League), Green Bay (8-16, 8-12)