The Daily Dive series hasn’t been that “Daily” here lately as we put most of our time and effort into doing the Pod Previews. We have read all of the comments about the selection process, the lowering down to 48 teams and other thoughts and attacks on the NAIA selection committee. While we agree that it isn’t a perfect process and it was a little strange that the NAIA added a filler team into the tournament without even an announcement about it. We do know one thing, the first two rounds of the 2021 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship were still AWESOME!!! We were blessed with great team matchups, great player matchups, buzzer beaters and big time player takeovers! While it will never be perfect and people will always find ways to complain (We promise you that next year with 64 teams, those bubble teams who don’t make it, will be upset as well), at the end of the day we still are having a great tournament to this point!
While many of you are eager to see the breakdowns of DI’s vs DII’s let us start off by saying that we have seen teams in the past make the jump from DII to DI and find success right away, so why people think it was so much of a jump we are a little confused about. With that being said, we also know that a few of the traditional power house DI programs and leagues were down this year, yet remained rated high because of that tradition! The Mid-South for instance is a league that was a little down, traditionally it has proven to be the best in the NAIA, and we may see Shawnee State in it all, but the league was down this year and it proved it in the opening rounds as they got 4 teams into the NAIA National Championship Tournament, yet went just 1-3 in the first two rounds. Another league, the Red River Athletic Conference is one we took heat on ALL year for not having teams rated higher then “they should be”. At end of the day we felt the writing was on the wall, a league that is usually very, very good, seemed to be a little down this year. The RRAC got 3 teams in and went 0-3 in the first two rounds. Same with the Sooner Athletic Conference, who traditionally has several teams make deep runs in Kansas City. The SAC got 4 teams in, with the addition of Texas Wesleyan, yet they went 2-3 with those 3 losses all being double figure losses, with two of them over 25pts. Now, SAGU has been the cream of the crop in the league this season and we won’t be surprised if they make a run in Kansas City, but these are examples of three leagues who are usually really, really good, who have seen a lot of graduations in the past two seasons and honestly were a bit younger and down this season. We fully expect all of them to bounce back as many teams in those leagues have great young foundations built!
If you take a look at the former DII rosters, we see a lot of the former DII programs who have a bunch of stud Seniors. Especially in the Crossroads League with the likes of Mangas, Crews, Wolter, Cushingberry, etc. It’s a great league, with great players and the Seniors have done their part to help the Crossroads League get four teams into the Final 16! Not all of the DII programs in the Final 16 are led by Seniors, but a majority of them are, and it helps a ton! We don’t say all of this to make any kind of excuses. We say it simply to point out as to why you shouldn’t have counted out the DII programs. They are all well coached with and most are veteran ball clubs! We could see four DI or four DII teams in the NAIA Fab Four and our thoughts would remain the same. The gap between the two divisions was a bit overplayed, but that’s a good thing because it has led to some great games in the Men’s Basketball National Championship thus far. We expect it to be much the same with the games in Kansas City!
Enough blabbing for now though, if you are wanting to review this past weekends games you can see the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship Recaps from the NAIA website:
Fun With Numbers:
60 – The amount of fouls called in the MACU vs William Penn game. One of the hardest games to watch in the entire Opening Round.
39 – # of points by Trevion Crews in the Opening Round Finals game last night. That was the most points from any player in the Opening Round.
32 – The amount of 3’s hit by Oklahoma Wesleyan over the two games they played in the Opening round. The Eagles were on fire, shooting over 54% from three!!!
10 – # of 1-seeds that advanced thru the Opening Round.
10 – # of Conferences represented inside the final 16 teams. 6 Former DI leagues represented, with 3 Former NAIA DII conferences. Left Lewis-Clark State neutral as they switched from Frontier to the Cascade.
10 – Also the # of wins by DII teams over DI teams in the opening rounds. Record of 10-6 for the former DII vs DI battle.
8 – # of NAIA DI and DII teams made the NAIA Round of 16.
NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship Round of 16 Conference Breakdown:
Crossroads League – 4 teams (#1 Indiana Wesleyan, #6 Marian, #9 St. Francis, #16 Bethel (IN)
Southern States Athletic Conference – 3 Teams (#4 Faulkner, #8 Stillman, #11 Loyola)
Great Plains Athletic Conference – 2 Teams (#10 Morningside, #13 Jamestown)
Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference – 2 Teams (#12 Bethel (KS), #14 Oklahoma Wesleyan)
1 Each from the (Cascade – #3 Lewis-Clark State, Frontier – #15 Carroll, Heart of America – #2 William Penn, Mid-South – #5 Shawnee State, Sooner – #7 SAGU)
A big congrats to everyone who made it to Kansas City. Like we mentioned earlier, it’s already been a fun and entertaining Men’s Championship. Per usual, we will have a full preview of the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championships as well as discussion on NHR – The Podcast out in the next couple of days!
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