In its first incarnation as a round-robin tournament, the Nashville Invitational produced co-champions last January when Nashville and Teutopolis both finished with 3-1 records.
The “NIT” is staying with its round-robin format again, but that won’t dilute the talent pool with three teams in the Class 2A state basketball rankings. Central (15-2) is second, Teutopolis (13-2) is fifth, and Nashville (11-6) is 22nd.
Mater Dei (11-3) received votes in the 3A state poll earlier this season and reached the 2A state tourney a year ago. Mascoutah (4-13) rounds out the field, but has been playing much better of late with wins in three of its last four games.
“A couple teams decided to go elsewhere and the only format that was left for us was round-robin,” Nashville Athletic Director Wayne Harre said. “We’d like to sometime get back to the eight-team bracketed tourney if we could get some other teams interested in playing.”
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These are teams that believe they could be gearing up for potentially long playoff runs. With some similar foes that also play in the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament, the NIT provides fans another golden opportunity to see how the talented teams stack up.
There is at least one major clash every night of the tournament.
“If you look at the teams that are in there, there are lot of possibilities,” Nashville coach Brad Weathers said, with the tourney set to kick off Monday night with Central vs. Mascoutah at 6:30 p.m. and Nashville vs.Teutopolis at 8 p.m.
Nashville has won five straight including its final game at the Mater Dei Tournament. The win streak has seen the Hornets take down Okawville, Pinckneyville, Greenville, Du Quoin and Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.
“We went that brutal schedule at Mater Dei,” Weathers said. “We were in every ballgame but finished 2-3. I feel like those games were good to us as far as improving.”
The Hornets’ win over Okawville avenged a 45-43 defeat against the Rockets at Mater Dei.
Hornets’ senior star Royce Newman has college football recruiting visits planned the next two weekends. Newman will visit Ole Miss this weekend and is expected to visit Penn State the following weekend.
He’s still committed to Missouri as an offensive lineman, but could change his mind any number of times between now and the signing date in February.
“It’s been a regular occurrence at practices to have college coaches in there watching him and visiting with him,” Weathers said. “He’s got a lot of things on his mind right now, but he’s handled it well.”
Newman is the top scorer for Nashville at 14 points per game, with Brady Bultman and Ryan Brink averaging around 10 points each.
Central Cougars: 11-1 in their last 12 games; only losses this season to Teutopolis and Okawville; top players are senior Logan Kohrmann (15.9 points per game, 24 3-pointers), junior Jack Strieker (9 ppg) and senior Chase Schneider (8.7 ppg, 31 3-pointers).
Mater Dei Knights: won four straight; only losses this season to Althoff, Okawville and Briarcrest Christian; top players are senior Nick Pollmann (17.4 ppg) and senior Jordan Kampwerth (8.4 ppg).
Mascoutah Indians: won three of their last four; top players are Blake Weiss (12.6 ppg) and Ethan Mayberry (11.9 ppg).
Another interesting small-school tournament takes place this week at Okawville, where state-ranked Okawville (15-3) and Gibault (12-6) lead the field. Looking to make some noise and post an upset or two will be Wesclin (6-10), Madison and Vandalia.
Okawville (ranked third in 1A) and Gibault (12th in 1A) meet in the final game of the round-robin tourney at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Gibault won at Okawville on Dec. 22, handing the Rockets one of their three losses this season behind a 30-point, 14-rebound night by junior Trevor Davis.
Okawville Rockets: just 2-2 in their last four games with losses to Nashville and Central; top players are junior Division I recruit Noah Frederking (21.2 ppg, 38 3-pointers) and Shane Ganz (11.4 ppg).
Gibault Hawks: 2-3 in their last five games; top players are junior Trevor Davis (15.9 points, 13.9 rebounds per game) and seniors Brian Deterding (14.9 points, 9.7 rebounds per game) and Jacob Rueter (11.9 ppg, 35 3-pointers, 5.4 assists per game).
Wesclin Warriors: 2-6 in their last eight games; top players are Jarad Steenbergen (13.9 ppg, 29 3-pointers) and Jared Timmermann (11.7 ppg, 22 3-pointers).
Madison: top player is Kendall Kennedy (10.5 ppg).