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Case Western Reserve University men's basketball team clinches first conference title, raises bar on program

Case Western basketball
Posted at 6:12 PM, Feb 23, 2023

CLEVELAND — Last year, the Case Western Reserve University men's basketball team made history by making it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Division III basketball tournament. It was an impressive feat—but one they're making an effort to be not just a feel-good story—but the Spartan standard.

For the Spartans, those efforts have paid off in a big way. Not only will they head back to the tourney this year—they've solidified their place in the tournament by making school history. For the first time ever, the program has clinched at least a partial share of the conference title, with a chance to have full ownership of the top spot in the University Athletic Association conference after their final regular season game on Saturday.

"We want to go as far as we can. We lost in the Sweet 16 last year, and so we're trying to go past that, which starts Saturday," said CWRU shooting guard Mitch Prendergast. 'We're not looking ahead, but we're ready to make a run."

Prendergast, a grad student, decided to come back for one more season after their run last year. For him, seeing the potential to build up the program by setting new standards was something that drew him back.

"It's really special. It was one of the reasons I came back to play this year was to get farther than we got last year," Prendergast said. "We have a chance to do something really special that we've never done before."

Setting new records and goals has become the norm for the Spartans men's basketball team. Even midway through the season when the team hit a rough patch, the players stuck together and fought to get back on track. With a 20-3 record, 10-3 in conference play, the Spartans enter their final regular season game on an eight game winning streak. Playing at a high level is something the players are now expecting of themselves.

"Freshman year, we were hoping to be like winning games, now we're hoping to win titles," said small forward Cole Frilling. "The expectation is to try and compete for UAA titles now. And it's great to win the first one, but it's even better if we win the next two, three, four or five."

A standard set, not just for this season, but for the younger players who will return next year and the following. Case Western Reserve University, known for it's academic strength, now making their athletic presence undeniable as well.

"We want to be all the smarts, but also show that we're athletic as well and we can play," Prendergast said. "A lot of people last year thought one good year and they'll be done. And I think it was kind of our goal to show that we're looking to build a program here."

While the Spartans prepare for their last game Saturday against the Carnegie Mellon Tartans, the approach is to not look too far ahead while also aiming to keep setting records and raising the bar.

"I think the belief's there that 'Hey, this is what we're supposed to be," said head coach Todd McGuinness. "I think they expect to keep winning and keep going as far as we can. And and that's the goal right now... that's the ultimate goal, is to try to get to Fort Wayne and the Final Four and show everyone last year wasn't a fluke—I think we've done that well enough already this year."

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