The Lawrence University men’s basketball team will to earn its second Midwest Conference basketball tournament title in a row this weekend as it hosts three other teams in the 2005 Midwest Conference Championships. The Vikings — along with Ripon, Lake Forest and Carroll – will be competing not only for the win, but also for the MWC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Last year the Vikings advanced all the way to the Elite Eight before being defeated by eventual National Champion UW-Stevens Point. The Vikings ended their regular season with a bump in the road, just like last season. The Vikings lost to Carroll on the road 58-54. Neither team played particularly well in the first half, which ended deadlocked at 20. The second half belonged to Carroll from the start, and they would hang on despite Chris Braier’s 17 points and 15 rebounds. Kyle MacGillis added 11 for the Vikes. The Vikings will have a repeat of last season in the MWC tournament match-ups as well. Last season the Vikings lost their last regular season game at Lake Forest, and then had a first round match-up with the Foresters. This year it’s Carroll, and a rematch with the Pioneers in the first round. The Vikings are the number one seed in the MWC tournament; Carroll advanced by squeaking past the Vikings last weekend. The Vikings are led by a slew of players. All-American and MWC Player of the Year candidate Chris Braier is one of them. The junior leads LU with 14.6 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game. He leads the MWC in rebounding. However, LU also has three other players in the double digits, with senior Jason Holinbeck averaging 13.3 points per game, Kyle MacGillis averaging 11.2, and Brendan Falls averaging 10.5 points per game. The Vikings have one of the deepest benches in the MWC as well, going 10 players deep at times. The Vikings split the season series with the Pioneers, losing last week on the road, but winning at home in January, 80-72. LU has also split with Ripon this season. The Vikings lost 72-70 in overtime at Ripon, but avenged that defeat with an 81-69 victory at Alexander Gym. The Vikings played the Foresters only once, and easily defeated them on the road by a score of 70-51. Carroll squeaked into the Midwest Conference tournament with the tiebreak over Monmouth. The Pioneers are making a return trip to Alexander for the second year in a row, after losing the championship game to the Vikings a year ago. Ben Hickethier, who averages 15.1 points per game, leads Carroll. Jason Scheper is second in scoring with 14.4 points per game, and first in rebounding with 6.7 rebounds per game. The Pioneers also have two good outside shooters in Paul Toshner and Nathan Drury. However, history is not on their side, as the fourth seed has never won the MWC title. The Pioneers split with all three teams in this year’s MWC tournament, winning at home and losing on the road. The first semifinal match-up pits second-seeded Ripon against third-seeded Lake Forest. MWC Player of the Year candidate Tom Becker leads the Redhawks. Becker leads the team and the MWC with 20.9 points per game. He is also second in assists and first in steals in the MWC. Becker is teamed up with Bo Johnson. Johnson, a sophomore, hit the game winning shot over the Vikings in their game this December. Johnson is deadly from the outside, as is Becker. The Redhawks also have Brian Schmitting, who leads the MWC in field goal percentage, in the post. Ripon has split with all three MWC tournament teams this season, winning at home and losing on the road. The Foresters are led by a balanced attack. They are also making a return trip to Alexander Gym for the second year in a row, since losing to the Vikings in the semifinals last season. The Foresters have a great inside pair with Franklin Beckford, who averages 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a game, and Eric McDonald, who averages 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Lake Forest also has a good pair of outsider players in Greg Klos and Dodd Browning. Lake Forest split with Carroll and Ripon, winning at home and losing on the road this season. The Foresters were defeated at home in their one game against Lawrence. The action starts Friday in Alexander Gym. Ripon and Lake Forest will tip off at 5 p.m., and Lawrence and Carroll will begin about 7 p.m. The two winners will advance to the championship game at 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon. The winner will watch the NCAA selection show at 9:30 Sunday night, broadcast on www.d3hoops.com, to see where they will play.