PREVIEW | Franklin Set to Tangle with Rose-Hulman in Opening Round of HCAC Tournament

Photo courtesy of Chad Williams
Photo courtesy of Chad Williams

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The Opening Tip
Post-season play gets underway on Friday night, with the Franklin men's basketball team taking on Rose-Hulman in the opening round of the HCAC Tournament, held inside Collier Arena on the campus of Hanover College. Franklin enters the tournament as the sixth seed and will face off with the third-seeded Engineers for the third time this season.
 
Ride the Wave
Head coach Kerry Prather's team enters the league tournament as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning seven of their last eight games to close out the regular season with a 9-9 record in league play. During that stretch, five different players are averaging double figures in points and the team as a whole has averaged 82 points per game. Kale Morris' 17.6 points per game tops all Franklin players over the last month and the junior has shot 62.5% from behind the three-point line over that stretch. 
 
Franklin has shot 53.5% as a team over the last eight games, topping 50% from the field in all seven wins. Defensively, the Grizzlies are limiting teams to 43.5% from the floor and just 29% from three-point range. 
 
About Rose-Hulman
In search of their first HCAC Tournament championship since 2014, the Engineers are coming off a 17-8 season that saw them finish 13-5 in HCAC play and earn the third seed after dropping the tie-breaker with Transylvania for a first-round bye. The Engineers enter the game as the league's second-best shooting team (46.9%) and three-point shooting team (36.5%) and are the top rebounding team in the league with 36.6 boards per game. 
 
Charlie Aimone leads the Engineers in scoring with 14.8 points per game and is joined in double figures by Craig McGee (12.3 ppg) and John Czarnecki (10.2 ppg). Rose took both meetings between the two teams this year, winning by a combined five points. 
 
Deep-Range Duo
Franklin enters the conference tournament as the HCAC's top shooting team from three, knocking down 37.4% of their attempts from long range. Spear-heading the team's efficiency from long range has been the duo of Morris and freshman Matt Krause, who come into the game as two of the league's top shooters from behind the arc. 
 
Morris' recent hot stretch has him third in the league in three-point field goal percentage at 43.5%, while Krause is connecting on 46.5% of his attempts from deep. Friday's game will also feature the league's top threat from three in McGee, who enters the game as a 48.1% shooter from deep. 
 
Conference Leaders
The Grizzlies enter this weekend tied atop the league in scoring, averaging 75.6 points per game, a number matched only by Transylvania. Individually, sophomore Payton Mills comes into Friday night as the league leader in field goal percentage, shooting 70.4% from the field. Morris is the league leader in both three-pointers made (57), as well as free throw percentage (98.1%).
 
Tourney Titans
Franklin enters this weekend in search of the program's fourth HCAC Tournament championship and the first since the 2007-08 season. The Grizzlies enter the event with the top winning percentage of all teams in HCAC Tournament history at .630, and their 17 wins are the second most all-time behind Hanover's 19 tournament victories.
 
Let's Go Dancing
The Grizzlies and Engineers will go on last on Friday night, following the night's opening contest between fourth-seeded Bluffton and fifth-seeded Anderson. The winner of the Beavers and Ravens will move on to Saturday to face top-ranked Hanover. The winner of the Franklin/Rose-Hulman game will advance to the following day, where second-seeded Transylvania awaits the winner. The two semifinal winners will meet on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., with the winner earning the league's automatic berth into the 2019 NCAA Division III national tournament. Ticket information can be found by clicking on the HCAC tournament page at the top of the page.
 
Hear it from the Grizzlies
Coach Prather and juniors Kale Morris and Borden Kennedy sat down to preview the weekend. Click on the play button below to hear the interview.