Tech Tidbits: Wonder Boys Seek Another Championship

Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys 2023-24 Great American Conference Champions
Arkansas Tech University has won 22 men's basketball games in 2023-24, its most in a single season since it went 26-6 and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II Tournament during the 2011-12 season.

Mark Downey has done something that few coaches will ever have the opportunity to do, much less achieve. He has rebuilt the same program to a championship level on two occasions.

Downey’s Arkansas Tech University Wonder Boys won the 2009-10 Gulf South Conference West Division title during the fourth season of his first stint at ATU. It was the Wonder Boys’ first regular season conference title in 15 years.

On Saturday, Arkansas Tech clinched a share of the 2023-24 Great American Conference regular season championship with a 94-83 win at Southern Arkansas University. It was the Wonder Boys’ first conference title in a decade. It came in the fourth season of Downey’s second stint at ATU.

The Wonder Boys clinched their 22nd regular season conference title with their 22nd win of the 2023-24 season.

“Our definition is toughness is doing your job no matter the circumstance,” said Downey moments after the Wonder Boys defeated SAU on Saturday. “These guys just keep stepping up and doing their job no matter the circumstance. We want to be about toughness. It paid off.”

There is no greater evidence of the Wonder Boys’ toughness than their performance away from Tucker Coliseum this season. The win at SAU was Arkansas Tech’s 10th road win of the season, including a 9-2 record in GAC road contests. By comparison, the Wonder Boys were 3-20 on the road during the three seasons from 2019-20 through 2021-22.

“It’s been a tough four years,” said Downey. “We fought through COVID and a lot of stuff. We just kept going. I am super proud of these guys. I thank God for this opportunity to come back to Tech. I’m so grateful for this team and grateful that God gave me the opportunity to coach these guys. I’ve tried to enjoy it more this year. I don’t really want to compare teams, but because of how I’ve attacked this year, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a team more.”

Arkansas Tech (22-6) will face the Harding University Bisons (12-16) in the first round of the GAC Tournament at noon on Thursday, March 7, at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Okla.

The Wonder Boys were 2-0 against the Bisons during the regular season. ATU defeated Harding 91-58 in Russellville and 89-66 in Searcy.

If Arkansas Tech advances, the Wonder Boys would play in the GAC Tournament semifinals at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, March 9. The men’s GAC Tournament championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, March 10.

All GAC Tournament games will be played at FireLake Arena in Shawnee. The GAC Tournament champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.

Live coverage of all ATU games from the GAC Tournament will be available on KCJC 102.3 FM, and the EAB Media Group app.

Talk to you on the radio.

Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.