Ferris State is, without question, enjoying their best season on the hardwood this year. The Bulldogs men's basketball team are an incredible 37-1 on the year, coming off a 85-79 win over West Texas A&M on Thursday, and are now in line to win the school's first ever national championship of any kind.
37 DOWN, ONE TO GO! pic.twitter.com/Az3dGyZufv
— Ferris M Basketball (@FerrisMBBALL) March 23, 2018
Ferris fended off a surging comeback from the Buffaloes of W.T. A&M, the same team who beat Le Moyne in the Elite 8 stage of the NCAA Division II Tournament; Le Moyne is coached by Patrick Beilein, son of Michigan head coach John Beilein. The Bulldogs found themselves up as many as 17 points well into the second half before A&M chipped away at the lead to make the waning minutes a bit more interesting.
Nonetheless, it was good enough for their 25th straight victory overall and it puts them in a position to rewrite history in Big Rapids.
Ferris athletics has yet to win an NCAA national championship in any sport, men's or women's. They have been runner-up four times in three different sports, most recently in 2012 when the men's hockey team made their lone Frozen Four appearance. The school's only national title of any kind came back in 1994 when the hockey program was still a part of the American College Hockey Association at the D-II level.
But there has been a major revival to the men's basketball program over the last handful of years. Much of that success can be attributed to head coach Andy Bronkema, who was promoted from top assistant late in the 2012-13 season on an interim basis and is now in his fifth full season in Big Rapids.
Ferris went 10-16 in Bronkema's first full season as head coach, but they've been nothing short of superb since then, winning nearly 82 percent of their games over the previous four seasons, winning four straight GLIAC Basketball Tournament titles and making consecutive Sweet 16 showings in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs have also twice set new program highs in wins each of the last two seasons, collecting 28 victories before shattering that mark this year.
Bronkema this season has really utilized his depth to spurn Ferris' success. The Bulldogs have 11 players that average at least 10 minutes per game this season, none of which play more than 30 MPG. But none have been more important to their production that a trio of players in junior Zach Hankins (Charlevoix), and seniors Drew Cushingberry (Romeo) and Noah King (U of D Jesuit), who have combined for nearly half of the team's points.
— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) March 23, 2018
Both Cushingberry and Hankins turned in double-double performances on Thursday against A&M, while King poured in 11 behind three made triples.
Up next for Ferris is the national championship bout on Saturday, March 24 in Sioux Falls against Northern State (36-3), who will have the privilege of playing right in their own backyard. The NSU campus is roughly a three-hour drive from the Sanford Pentagon, where this game is being played.
You can catch the championship tilt on Saturday, 3 p.m. ET on CBS.