Setting the Scene:
Setting the Scene: The Wittenberg men's basketball team once again ranked among the best in the nation in 2004-05, extending a long history of success dating back to the mid-1950s.
But for the second straight year, the Tigers lost their NCAA Division III Tournament opener on their home floor to Ohio Athletic Conference champion John Carroll. The loss capped the Tigers' season with records of 25-4 overall and 14-2 in the North Coast Athletic Conference. The Tigers finished second in the NCAC regular season standings before claiming the program's fifth NCAC Tournament title with a 61-59 win at top-seeded regular season champion Wooster.
The Tigers were ranked in the top 25 throughout the season, and a mid-season 15-game win streak helped Wittenberg into the top five at one point. Only a pair of heartbreaking overtime losses ended the Tigers' dreams of a national title - the first defeat coming in three overtimes to arch-rival Wooster on Feb. 12 and the other coming in two overtimes on March 5 to John Carroll in the second round of the national tournament.
Wittenberg was definitely singing them in 2004-05. Three of the team's four losses were in either double or triple overtime - at Denison on Dec. 11 in addition to the aforementioned games.
The Tigers did show tremendous fortitude in those three defeats - scoring a game-tying field goal to extend each game at some point. In addition, the Tigers got their lone overtime victory in a 61-53 NCAC Tournament semifinal gut-check win over Wabash at Wooster on Feb. 25. In that game, Wittenberg rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to capture a win that propelled the Tigers to the conference tourney crown.
After a breakout season in which he was at his best in his team's biggest games, junior Daniel Russ (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) was selected first-team All-Great Lakes Region and third-team All-America by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).
Russ averaged 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in 2004-05, his second season as a starter. Those totals were both second-best on the team, and he also led the Tigers and finished second in the NCAC with 38 blocked shots on the season. In addition, Russ was third on the team in assists with 43, first in steals with 29 and second in field goal percentage at .551. His 37 points in a triple overtime loss to Wooster on Feb. 12 was the highest single-game scoring total by any player in the NCAC in 2004-05.
Russ earned first-team All-NCAC honors, after making the second team a year ago, and was recognized as the 2005 NCAC Player of the Year, the third Wittenberg player to earn that lofty status in the university's 16 years in the conference. He added all-tournament team honors at the season-opening Washington University Lopata Classic and the Kiwanis-Wittenberg Holiday Classic, and he capped his season with the NCAC Tournament MVP award.
Senior wing Andy Bucheit (Cincinnati, Ohio/LaSalle), the team's top three-point shooter and third-leading scorer, and junior post Dane Borchers (Russia, Ohio/Russia), who led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding, earned second-team All-NCAC nods for the first collegiate postseason honors of their careers.
With the end of the 2004-05 season came the end of four outstanding collegiate careers.
Senior point guard Danny Brywczynski (Dayton, Ohio/Northmont) was a three-year starter and four-year letterwinner in the Red & White. A pass-first point guard, hard-nosed defender and team captain in 2004-05, Brywczynski started 79 of the 111 games in which he played, averaging nearly five points per game and leading the squad in assists in each of the last four seasons. He ranks 10th in school history with 290 career assists after distributing 95 in 2004-05, compared to just 37 turnovers. He also finished with 104 three-point field goals in his career, including 31-of-63 a year ago when he set a school record for percentage in a season (.492).
Senior point guard Kenny Molz (Kettering, Ohio/Fairmont) earned three varsity letters as a valuable reserve player. He appeared in all 29 games off the bench in 2004-05, but he often was a key ballhandler in late-game situations. Molz averaged a career-best 6.1 points per game as he ranked third on the team with 32 three-point field goals.
Senior wing Andy Bucheit (Cincinnati, Ohio/LaSalle) was selected as the Tigers' co-captain in 2004-05 and he responded with his best season in the Red & White. Bucheit finished with 79 three-pointers, a three-point shooting percentage of .432 and a free throw percentage of .852, all of which rank among the best in school history. He was the perimeter threat to complement Wittenberg's vaunted post game, and he averaged a career-best 11.8 points per game.
He concluded his career with 951 total points, an impressive number considering he did most of his damage off the bench. Prior to starting 28 of 29 games in 2004-05, Bucheit had made just 20 starts in 82 appearances.
Senior guard Brett Bowen (Arcadia, Ind./Hamilton Heights) earned two varsity letters and would have likely claimed a third if not for a leg injury prior to the 2003-04 season. He made one start in 29 games in 2004-05, contributing career highs of 2.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest. For his career, Bowen appeared in 63 games and made three starts.
The Wittenberg Tigers were nearly unstoppable in the post in 2004-05, and that figures to be a strength again next season. Three of the Tigers' four leading scorers were junior post players.
Russ' accomplishments are already documented, but he actually trailed Borchers in many statistical categories. Healthy for an entire season for the first time in his collegiate career, Borchers broke out for 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per outing in 2004-05. He shot 62 percent from the field and 79 percent from the free throw line.
Junior Kenny Brady (Reading, Ohio/Reading) averaged 9.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19 games off the bench after missing the first two months of the season with an injury. A second-team All-NCAC honoree a year ago, Brady stepped out and stroked 10 three-pointers in 2004-05. He also shot a team-best 91 percent from the free throw line.
Head Coach Bill Brown (Wittenberg '73) completed his 12th season at the helm of his alma mater's basketball program. Brown's teams at Wittenberg have compiled an overall record of 275-66 for an .800 winning percentage. This season's 25-4 overall mark continues one of the most amazing winning season streaks in all of college sports. Wittenberg has not had a losing season since 1953-54 and has averaged more than 21 wins per season during that time and more than 22 per year since Brown took the reins in 1993-94.
The Tigers have won six outright NCAC regular season championships and two NCAC Tournament titles, and they have advanced to eight NCAA Division III national tournaments in Brown's 12 seasons. His teams have an 11-8 record in NCAA competition with a Final Four appearance in 1994 and an Elite Eight appearance in 1996. Brown's career record is 335-165, including one season at Wooster and four at Kenyon in the 1980s.