If the Marietta College men's basketball team is fortunate enough to advance to Saturday night's 7 p.m. second-round NCAA Division III tournament game at Ban Johnson Arena, it will face either Wittenberg University or La Roche (Pa.) College.
The Tigers and Redhawks are slated to tip off tourney play at 5 p.m. today, followed at approximately 8 p.m. by the Pioneers versus the Centre (Ky.) College Colonels.
Believe it or not, Jon VanderWal-coached Marietta, No. 13 ranked nationally with a 25-3 record, owes Centre (21-5) one. Way back during the 1971-72 campaign, the Phil Roach-led Pioneers dropped an 85-73 decision to the Colonels. The two schools have not played since then.
Marietta has to be the favorite this weekend since it has the homecourt advantage and features a quality bench. The Pioneers are expected to start Trevor Halter, Kevin Knab, Jason Humphrey, Tyler Hammond and Jacob Owens.
In punching its ticket to the NCAA tournament, Centre defeated DePauw University in the championship game of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament in Jackson, Miss.
Against MC, the Greg Mason-led Colonels are expected to start 6-foot-4 Cincinnati native Greg Ross, 6-8 Alex Lloyd, 5-10 Bryan Ellis, 6-3 Donovan Whiteside and 6-2 Jeff Mullaney.
The thing about Centre is that it doesn't appear to have much of a bench - and that could be its undoing in the second half.
Marietta has also faced La Roche of Pittsburgh once before in its history, winning an 81-68 decision in 2003-04. Doug Foote was the Pioneer boss back then.
La Roche (25-2) advanced to the NCAA Tournament by defeating Penn St. Behrend, 55-53, in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Tournament championship game at La Roche's Coach Scott Lang Court last Saturday. It was the Redhawks' second conference crown in school history.
This will also be La Roche's first appearance in the NCAA tournament event.
The Harry Jenkins-coached Redhawks are paced by 5-foot-10 Laron Mann - who tallied a game-high 15 points against Pen St. Behrend - 6-5 Derek Barber-Richards, 6-1 Mike Dixon, 6-2 Nate Wojciechowski and 6-6 Joel McIntosh. First off the bench will probably be 6-4 freshman David Jackson, who had a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds against Penn St. Behrend.
Wojciechowski is averaging 14 points per game, and Mann, McIntosh and Dixon 11 apiece, to lead the Redhawks in that offensive category.
La Roche has to be considered a favorite to advance to Saturday night's showdown.
Wittenberg was once a familiar opponent to Marietta and a former member of the Ohio Athletic Conference. The Tigers and Pioneers, though, have not played on the hardwood since 1988-89 when the former claimed a 77-51 decision in the OAC Tournament.
In the all-time series, Marietta trails Wittenberg 67-22. The Pioneers have not defeated the Tigers of Springfield since winning 76-72 in 1985-86.
Wittenberg, now a member of the North Coast Athletic Conference, advanced to the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid team. The Tigers were beaten 82-68 by the host Wooster Fighting Scots in last Saturday's NCAC Tournament title game at Timken Gymnasium.
Against La Roche, Bill Brown-coached Wittenberg is expected to start 6-foot-7 Clayton Black, 6-7 Alex Brandt, 6-4 Michael Cooper, 5-9 Chris Sullivan and 6-0 Steven Newell.
Seth Hill and Josh McKee, both at 6-2, will probably be the first Tigers off the pine.
On the season, Black and Sullivan are averaging 15 points per game to lead the Tigers.
Wittenberg, even though it got drilled by Wooster, could be a sleeper this weekend.
With this tournament being played in the Buckeye State, a Pioneer-Tiger final would probably be the preference for many of the Ban Johnson Arena fans. That, and the fact that Wittenberg used to play in the OAC.
So there you have it, folks. Marietta, Centre, Wittenberg and LaRoche.
Only one will survive and be the last one standing late Saturday night.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at email@example.com