It’s time for Basketball! With the NAIA National Championships Opening Round games set to tip off on Friday, you can expect to see plenty of MADNESS! What makes the Championships so much fun is that you get league vs league matchups with bragging rights and respect on the line. Some leagues are out to keep their “national power” status. Others are out to prove their league deserves more respect. You can throw out records, you can throw out rankings as March is unforgiving to both. This is win or go home time against the best teams from all across the country, with players from all across the World. A bad half, heck even a bad 10 minute stretch can send you home. We will see our fair share of upsets and buzzer beaters. Matchups matter, and while you may be the better team, a bad matchup can cause you enough fits that it sends you home. It’s the toughest tournament to win at any level, but it’s also one of the most fun to watch! Plus it’s the first time for a 64 team field at the NAIA level and there is no reseeding once we get to Kansas City, so the bracket below is how she will stay throughout the Championships. Without further ado, here is your full breakdown of the 2021-22 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championships!

The Bracket

The Podcast Preview Show

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Naismith Quadrant

Naismith Team Champions

Regular Season Champions

#1 Loyola – Southern States Athletic Conference

#2 Olivet Nazarene – Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference

#3 College of Idaho – Cascade Collegiate Conference

Tournament Champions

#1 Loyola – SSAC

#2 Olive Nazarene – CCAC

#3 College of Idaho – CCC

#5 Georgetown – Mid-South Conference

#6 Ottawa (AZ) – Golden State Athletic Conference

#7 Grace – Crossroads League

#9 Florida College – Continental Athletic Conference

#13 Florida Memorial – The Sun Conference

#15 Lourdes – Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference

Naismith Schedule

New Orleans Pod (Hosted @ Tulane)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live

3pm CT – #8 Florida College vs #9 Evangel

7:30pm CT – #1 Loyola vs #16 Benedictine – Mesa

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live

5pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Montgomery Pod (Hosted @ Faulkner)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live

5pm CT – #5 Georgetown vs #12 Huntington

7pm CT – #4 Faulkner vs #13 Florida Memorial

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live

5pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Caldwell Pod (Hosted @ College of Idaho)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live ($)

6pm CT – #6 Ottawa (AZ) vs #11 UT Southern

8pm CT – #3 College of Idaho vs #14 Vanguard

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live ($)

8pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Bourbonnais Pod (Hosted @ Olivet Nazarene)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live

5pm CT – #2 Olivet Nazrene vs #15 Lourdes

7pm CT – #7 Grace vs #10 Cumberlands

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live

5pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Naismith Breakdown

Favorite:

Loyola. They are the favorite to win the NAIA Title. Not only are they well coached by Stacy Hollowell, but they have the talent and the depth to win it. It is going to take a lot to knock them off. Zach Wrightsil and Myles Burns are one of the best duo’s in the country, but then add in the likes of Brandon Davis, Andrew Fava and the very underrated Terry Smith Jr. and you have the makings of a team that really works well off of one another. 

Team Outside the Top 4 to Make a Deep Run:

Grace. It honestly isn’t that much of a surprise pick. If they end up beating Cumberlands, they most likely have a true road game against a good Olivet Nazarene team. However this is a group that just won 3 straight wins, against Top 25 opponents, on their way to a Crossroads Tournament Title.

Surprise team to make Kansas City: 

Evangel. They have a major uphill battle, but if they get by Florida College in 1st round, they are a tough offense to scout on a 1-day scout. Beating Loyola will be a tough task, but they are a tough group who can shoot the ball and manufacture easy baskets.

 

General Thoughts:

This is a grouping that not only features two of the best players in the NAIA in Zach Wrightsil and Alex Gross, but it also features three of the tournaments top four scoring teams in Loyola (2nd), Florida College (3rd) and Olivet Nazarene (4th). It has three of the top fifteen scorers in the tournament in Alex Gross (2nd), Matt Simpson (5th) and Tyler Schmidt(15th), as well as two of the top five rebounders in Alex Gross (1st) and Kyran Jones (4th). With all of the prolific offenses in this Quadrant, it also features five of the top eight assist leaders in L Pflederer (2nd), Phat Cleveland (3rd), Alex Gross (5th), Isaac Davis (6th) and Adarion Hudson (8th). Four Conference Players of the Year (Zach Wrightsil, Matt Simpson, Ricardo Time, Alex Gross) may make up some of the star studded field, but there are so many great players within the Naismith bracket. You also have 9 of the hottest teams in the NAIA in the field as it features 9 teams who won their league tournament. If you want action, this Quadrant should have plenty of it. Loyola is still the favorite out of this grouping to make it to the Fab Four. However, Olivet with a 17 game win streak and one of the best big men in the NAIA, College of Idaho with their tough and stingy zone defense, Grace with their young, but ultra talented squad, Georgetown with their National Tournament prowess and Faulkner with it’s dynamic duo of CJ Hines and Jalon Perry, all are capable of reaching a Fab Four as well. The rest of the field will surely be upset minded as they try to make deep runs of their own. 

New Orleans Pod

#8 Florida College vs #9 Evangel

Two teams with a bit of contrasting styles here. Florida College averages 89.2ppg while Evangel only gives up 69ppg. The key here will be if Florida College was able to find a solution to Evangel’s offense and slowing down Cade Coffman and Josh Pritchet. For Evangel, they will have their hands full with one of the NAIA’s best scorers in Matt Simpson. IF they are able to do that they can advance to the Round of 32.

 

#1 Loyola vs #16 Benedictine – Mesa

Benedictine – Mesa leads the Naismith Quadrant in Defensive FG%. However, this is a Loyola group that is, in most peoples eyes, the favorites to win a NAIA National Title. BenU Mesa has their hands full on trying to control the pace in this one and find a way to make things tough for Zach Wrigtsil, Myles Burns and the rest of this talented Wolf Pack squad.

Via Faulkner Athletics
Montgomery Pod

#5 Georgetown vs #12 Huntington

Boy, this is such a juicy matchup. 1 of 3 Mid-South vs Crossroads League matchups of the 1st round. Chris Briggs is one of the best coaches in the NAIA and his Tigers are tournament tough as they have consistently made deep runs and won a few National Titles in Briggs tenure. Kyran Jones and Devin Boyd lead the way but they will have their hands full with Zach Goodline and the Forresters. Huntington is no stranger to big wins this season and they will look to add another one here!

#4 Faulkner vs #13 Florida Memorial

Florida Memorial went on a magical run to win the Sun Conference Tournament. Now we will see if Corey Benton and the Lions can keep that momentum going. They have a true road contest here and Faulkner Freshman, CJ Hines has been electric this season. When him and Jalon Perry are cooking, this Faulkner team is tough to beat. 

Via yoteathletics.com
Caldwell Pod

#6 Ottawa (AZ) vs #11 UT Southern

You can’t help but wonder if Adarion Hudson and company, despite the long trip, will come in hungry after getting an 11-seed in this tournament. This is a UT Southern team that finished 2nd in the Mid-South regular season. They are stumbling a bit coming into this one, but expect this scrappy group to be ready to go. They have a tough task with this OUAZ team, led by Josiah De’leCerda. This is a Spirit team that comes in as winners of the GSAC tournament and playing some great basketball.

#3 College of Idaho vs #14 Vanguard

The Yotes are at home in this one. A place that no NAIA team has won at this season. Vanguard has a tough task but do have two Top 5 wins on the season. veteran Ricardo Time and Freshman Drew Wyman will look to keep the Yotes terrific season going. Garrett White and Isaac Davis lead the way for Vanguard. 

Via onutigers.com
Bourbonnais Pod

#7 Grace vs #10 Cumberlands (KY)

Another one of the three Crossroads vs Mid-South 1st round matchups. The Grace Lancers are young, tough and red hot! They just won the Crossroads Tournament, winning every game on the road. This is a talented group led by Frankie Davidson, Jake Wadding and Elijah Malone. Cumberlands is used to playing tough teams each and every night, but Elijah Malone will be one of the best, true bigs, that they have seen this season. Jahi Hinson and Steven Fitzgerald are also super talented though and this UC bunch won’t back down from this fight.

#2 Olivet Nazarene vs #15 Lourdes

Lourdes doesn’t play a particular style that tends to give ONU fits, but they are so well coached by former NBA player, Dennis Hopson. If Joey Hollifield, Nick Welch and the Gray Wolves are going to get the upset here, they are going to have to find a way to shut down Alex Gross and Tyler Schmidt. Gross is one of the favorites to win the National Player of the Year award. The 6’10 big man has been dominant this year and when you think you can run a double team at him, he shows off his passing skills. Not an easy task to slow him down!

Cramer Quadrant

Cramer Team Champions

Regular Season Champions

#1 Arizona Christian – GSAC Champion

#2 Indiana Wesleyan – Crossroads Champion

#8 Southeastern (FL) – Sun Conf Co-Champion

#10 Indiana Tech – WHAC

#12 Briar Cliff – GPAC Co-Champion

#14 Warner – Sun Conf Co-Champion

Tournament Champions

#16 Tougaloo

Cramer Schedule

Lakeland Pod (Hosted @ Southeastern (FL))

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live

4:30pm CT – #8 Southeastern (FL) vs #9 Xavier

6:30pm CT – #1 Arizona Christian vs #16 Tougaloo

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live

6pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Wichita Pod (Hosted by KCAC @ Hartman Arena)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live ($)

6pm CT – #4 Saint Francis vs #13 Northwestern (IA)

8pm CT – #5 Bethel (KS) vs #12 Briar Cliff

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live ($)

6pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Rocklin Pod (Hosted @ William Jessup)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live

7:15pm CT – #3 William Jessup vs #14 Warner

9:30pm CT – #6 Hope International vs #11 Oregon Tech

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live

7pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Marion Pod (Hosted @ Indiana Wesleyan)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live ($)

1pm CT – #7 Southwestern (KS) vs #10 Indiana Tech

6pm CT  -#2 Indiana Wesleyan vs #15 Montreat

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live ($)

5pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Cramer Breakdown

Favorite:

Arizona Christian. Angelo Johnson and Robby Wilson lead the way for ACU. Head Coach, Jeff Rutter, continues to do a great job with this program and it won’t be a surprise to see this team back in Kansas City this season. 

Indiana Wesleyan. The Crossroads Player of the Year, Seth Maxwell, has had a heck of a career and he will be looking to go out on a high note. As will Spencer Piercefield and Dan Largey. The Wildcats may have stumbled a bit over the final two weeks, but you can bet that Coach Tonagel has gotten this squad back and ready to go for one last final run.

 

Team Outside the Top 4 to Make a Deep Run:

Hope International. The 6-seed has a tough opener with Oregon Tech, then has the possibility of facing a William Jessup for the 4th time this season. A series that has been fantastic as the 1st game went to double OT,  and all 3 games were separated by a combined 7 points. Jessup won all 3 and HIU, I am sure, would love a round 4!

 

Surprise team to make Kansas City:

Southeastern (FL). SEU gets the opportunity to play two games at home, inside the Furnace, to go to Kansas City. They have a tough XULA team in the 1st round, then a possible showdown with the 1-seed, Arizona Christian in the Round of 32. With two home games, it may only be a surprise because of seeding, because SEU has a great opportunity ahead of them. 

General Thoughts:

If you like scoring, this is the Quadrant for you. Especially individual scoring, as the Top 6 scorers in the Cramer Quadrant are all inside the Top 15 scorers of the tournament. Leading the way is Riley Minix of Southeastern at 22.9ppg. This quadrant also features four CPOY winners in Minix, Seth Maxwell, Jaylon Scott and Cash Williams. Team wise you can find six regular season champions in the field. You also have Saint Francis, Indiana Wesleyan and Montreat who are all inside the Top 10 scoring teams in the tournament. 

 

Via @SEUFireMBB
Lakeland Pod

#8 Southeastern (FL) vs #9 Xavier

Southeastern gets to play at home in the Furnace. A place they don’t lose a ton at. Riley Minix and Jordan Garman will look to offset this stingy XULA defense. Minix was the Sun Conf. Player of the Year this season and will be a tough matchup for anyone. SEU will have to find a way to force the tempo in this one and slow down XULA All-American, Makye Richard. If they can do that, they should come away with the win.

 

#1 Arizona Christian vs #16 Tougaloo

Tougaloo is no stranger to the NAIA National Tournament, but the GCAC was such a wildcard this season that I don’t know if anyone can really take too much from their season. ACU on the other hand has been a Top 10 team for most of the season. They locked up a 1-seed in the tournament and are led by Angelo Johnson and Robby Wilson. They may have to win a true road game against SEU in the Round of 32, to get to Kansas City, but this is a tough, well coached ACU group.

Via bethelthreshers.com
Wichita Pod

#4 Saint Francis (IN) vs #13 Northwestern (IA)

This entire Pod is so much fun, but especially this opening round matchup with Antwaan Cushingberry and David Ejah of USF going up against Alex Van Kalsbeek and Trent Hilbrands of Northwestern. Northwestern doesn’t play at a slow pace per say, but USF will be looking to push the tempo in this one. Should be a fun game from an offensive standpoint.

#5 Bethel (IN) vs #12 Briar Cliff

The 5 vs 12 matchups in the NAIA opening round are crazy fun. Briar Cliff won the GPAC regular season title and led the GPAC almost all season long. You have to think that Jaden Kleinhesselink and this BC team are motivated and hungry after receiving a 12-seed. Bethel is led by one of the best players in the NAIA in Jaylon Scott. He is so special and you shouldn’t be surprised if he goes for a triple-double in this one. Again, a great matchup here between the 2nd place team in the KCAC vs the 1st place team in the GPAC.

Via jessupathletics.com
Rocklin Pod

#6 Hope International vs #11 Oregon Tech

A very intriguing game between these two. Both have played games on this court this season, so they won’t be a stranger to the atmosphere. Oregon Tech likes to play at a faster pace then HIU so we will see who is able to control that pace. Anthony Garcia and Joshua Powell-Davis have been great for HIU all year long. Kaison Faust and the Owls will have their hands full, but are a mostly veteran group who can pull off this upset if they can speed this game up!

 

#3 William Jessup vs #14 Warner

Flying from Florida to California to play a true road game in the opening round is not ideal, however, it beats not getting in at all, so we will see what Warner has in them after the long travel. Jessup has been without stud Freshman Myles Corey, but still made it to the GSAC Title game without him. Mostly because GSAC Player of the Year Cash Williams continues to do special things.

Marion Pod

#7 Southwestern vs #10 Indiana Tech

Indiana Tech got a win on this floor last year in the National Championships. They will look to pull another upset this year against Cevin Clark and this tough Southwestern team. Indiana Tech is led by the trio of Grant Smith, Rog Stein and Josh Kline, a trio that is usually hard to matchup with their size. However, Southwestern with Andrew O’Brien and Deng Bol have the size to counter. This will be a very interesting game to tip off the entire tournament!

#2 Indiana Wesleyan vs #15 Montreat

Montreat has one of our favorite players in Noah Dunn. However they have their hands full on the road against a very good IWU team led by the CL Player of the Year, Seth Maxwell. Both teams like to play fast, so expect a lot of points to be scored. Montreat will just have to keep this one close as long as possible and give themselves a chance late if they are to pull off this upset.

Duer Quadrant

Duer Team Champions

Regular Season Champions

#1 Wiliam Penn – Heart of America

#3 Carroll – Frontier Conference

#5 Concordia (NE) – GPAC Co-Champion

#8 IU Kokomo – River States Conference

#16 Bellevue – NSAA Co-Champion

Tournament Champions

#1 William Penn 

#5 Concordia (NE)

#8 IU Kokomo

#16 Bellevue

Duer Schedule

Oskaloosa Pod (Hosted @ William Penn)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live

3pm CT – #8 IU Kokomo vs #9 Dordt

6pm CT – #1 William Penn vs #16 Bellevue

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live

4pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Omaha Pod (Hosted @ DJ Sokol Arena)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live ($)

4:30pm CT – #4 Marian vs #13 Freed-Hardeman

7:15pm CT – #5 Concordia (NE) vs #12 IU Northwest

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live ($)

7:30pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Helana Pod (Hosted by Carroll)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live ($)

6:30pm CT – #6 Jamestown vs #11 Lewis-Clark St

8:30pm CT – #3 Carroll vs #14 MVNU

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live ($)

7:30pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Talladega Pod (Hosted by Talladega)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live ($)

3pm CT – #2 Talladega vs #15 Washington Adventist

5pm CT – #7 Cumberland vs #10 WVU Tech

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live ($)

5pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Duer Breakdown

Favorites:

William Penn. The Statesmen boast two, 2x All-Americans in Kevion Blaylock and Karmari Newman. They will be 3x All-Americans at the end of the season. However, it’s the PG’s Q Cager and Chanze Cureso who are two of the top assist guys in the tournament and rev the engines for the tournaments highest scoring team at 95ppg. They are 85-6 over the past 3 seasons and while they have gone to two Quarterfinals, a Fab Four and played for a National Title over the past 8 years, they are still on the hunt for that elusive National Championship.

Talladega. The Tornados are one of the best defensive teams in the country as they give up the fewest points per game of any team left playing at 58ppg. They have only lost 5 games this season. Three of those are to Loyola, 1 was to Vanguard, without All-American, Darryl Baker and the other was a road game to a good Stillman team. Coach Wright will have his guys ready to go.

 

Team Outside the Top 4 to Make a Deep Run:

Concordia (NE). You look for teams that are tough matchups, especially off of short scouts, who can make a lot of noise and this Bulldog team is one that checks off all of those boxes. They were the GPAC Regular Season Co-champs and winner of the GPAC Tournament. Carter Kent, Gage Smith and Justin Wiersema lead the charge of this offensive attack. If they can play consistent enough defense, they can make a deep run.

Surprise team to make Kansas City: 

Cumberland. We just got done talking about how good Talladega is and this Cumberland team, if they can win their first game, will most likely have to beat Talladega at Talladega to advance to Kansas City, BUT, Tavon King, Isaac Stephens and this Pheonix squad won 8 of their final 11 games of the regular season and are a team that can make a deep run.

 

General Thoughts:

For those of you who like defense you will want to turn into the Duer Quadrant. This is a quadrant that has Talladega, Carroll, Marian, Bellevue and Kokomo all inside the Top 8 in defensive points allowed amongst tournament teams. Even William Penn, who gives up the most points per game (85) in the entire tournament, are still  Top 5 in the quadrant in defensive FG%. The Duer Quadrant also features four CPOY winners in Kevion Blaylock, Mason Walters, Desean Hampton and Jovan Sljivancanin. You can even throw Darryl Baker into that mix as he was a 2x Player of the Year winner in Dega’s previous league. Going to be some interesting matchups in this one, even beyond the opening round! We will cover those more as they come along though!

 

Via statesmenathletics.com
Oskaloosa Pod

#8 IU Kokomo vs #9 Dordt

 This is a very fun matchup. Dordt likes to play a little more up-tempo and are a tough offense to scout for. Kokomo is tough defensively and has the RSC Player of the Year in Desean Hampton. Their leading scorer though is Trequan Spivey though and he has had quite the last few games headed into the tournament. Dordt is led by Bryce Coppock and Jacob Vis. The team that can control the tempo in this one will win this game.

#1 William Penn vs #16 Bellevue

Speaking of two teams with contrasting styles. This game features the tournaments highest scoring team in William Penn (85ppg) vs the tourney’s lowest scoring team in Bellevue (67.9ppg). Bellevue is led by Eric Pierce and will most likely look to take the air out of the ball in this one. WPU, at home, can really turn games around though and will look to push the pace. Kevion Blayock and company are a high flying bunch and are a lot of fun to watch. 

Via @MUKnights
Omaha Pod

#5 Concordia (NE) vs #12 IU Northwest

Concordia won the Regular Season and Tournament GPAC Titles after a couple of crazy finishes to games late in the year. IU Northwest has some big wins on their resume already. Two really good players in Carter Kent (CUNE) and Jared Johnson (IUN). Johnson is one to really watch here, as he could really give this CUNE team some fits. 

#4 Marian vs #13 Freed-Hardeman

Two elite guards going to battle in this one with Christian Stewart (Marian) and Kortland Martin (FHU). FHU was a bubble team at end of the season and found themselves in the tournament. They have a tough matchup here with a good Marian team in what is the 3rd CL vs MSC matchup of the opening round. Marian has played really good basketball down the stretch before losing to Grace in the CL Championship game. A very intriguing 4/13 matchup.

Via @CCSaints
Helena Pod

#6 Jamestown vs #11 Lewis-Clark State

Mason Walters is the leading scorer headed into the tournament. This is a Jamestown team that went on a big run last year and will be looking to do it again. LCSC has been banged up this year, which made them turn to starting 3 Freshman. It’s a formula that has worked though. They don’t have the depth they want headed into the tournament, but Austin Johnson has proven to be one of the NAIA’s best coaches, so they will be ready!

#3 Carroll vs #14 Mount Vernon Nazarene

Carroll is no stranger to deep runs in the NAIA National Championships. They will look to carry that tradition on again this year and getting two home games to get to Kansas City, certainly favors this group. Jovan Sljivancanin is a stud, so is Shamrock Campbell. They do have to find a way to slow down MVNU’s Kyle Kegley though. The big fella has been really good this year and MVNU is no stranger to big wins.

Talladega Pod

#7 Cumberland vs #10 WVU Tech

We talked above about this Cumberland team, but Tevon King and company are really good. They are going to have to bring their hard hats though for this first matchup, as WVU Tech is tough and physical. Still no Scruggs lately for WVU Tech, but Thomas Hailey has stepped up his game and will look to lead WVU Tech over Cumberland.

#2 Talladega vs #15 Washington Adventist

WAU has some tough D1 drop downs in Devon Flowers and Mastadi Pitt. However, Talladega is so good defensively that WAU will have to have some other guys step up. Dega has one of the best PG’s in the NAIA with Cam Potts and one of the best players in Darryl Baker. A team that is a real threat to win a National Championship.

Liston Quadrant

Liston Team Champions

Regular Season Champions

#1 Oklahoma Wesleyan – KCAC 

#2 Thomas More – Mid-South

#4 Science & Arts (OK) – SAC

#5 LSU Shreveport – RRAC

#10 Union – AAC 

#12 Missouri Baptist

#16 Saint Katherine

Tournament Champions

#1 Oklahoma Wesleyan

#3 Montana Tech

#5 LSU Shreveport

#6 SAGU

#10 Union

#12 Missouri Baptist

#16 Saint Katherine

Liston Schedule

Park City Pod (Hosted by KCAC)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live ($)

6pm CT – #1 Oklahoma Wesleyan vs #16 Saint Katherine

8pm CT – #8 IU South Bend vs #9 Kansas Wesleyan

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live ($)

6pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Alexandria Pod (Hosted by LSU Alexandria)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live

5:30pm CT – #4 Science & Arts (OK) vs #13 LSU Alexandria

7:30pm CT – #5 LSU Shreveport vs #12 Missouri Baptist

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live

5:30pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Waxahachie Pod (Hosted @ SAGU)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live

5:30pm CT – #3 Montana Tech vs #14 MACU

7:30pm CT – #6 SAGU vs #11 Central Methodist

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live

5:30pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Crestview Hills Pod (Hosted @ Thomas More)

Friday, March 11th – Watch Live ($)

4:30pm CT – #2 Thomas More vs #15 Grand View

6:30pm CT – #7 Stillman vs # 10 Union

Saturday, March 12th – Watch Live ($)

5pm CT – Winner vs Winner

Liston Breakdown

Favorites:

Oklahoma Wesleyan – One of the more unique teams in the tourney as they almost exclusively play a five in, five out system with a core of 10 guys. They have mixed and matched their best players into two lineups and filled around them good role players. When they sub, not only are they fresh, but they don’t sub and lose talent. Freshman big man, Jaden Lietzke, leads the way for OKWU, but Brandon Bird and Kaleb Stokes have also had big years!

Thomas More – Ryan Batte and the Saints are so fun to watch, but are also so tough to matchup with. Batte is an undersized big man who will take you away from the rim. Reid Jolley is 6’7, but does most of his work from the perimeter. Then you add in veterans, Garren Bertsch and Luke Rudy and you have a team that is ready for a deep run! Don’t be surprised if they are slapping hands all the way to the Fab Four.

Team Outside the Top 4 to Make a Deep Run:

SAGU. They made the Fab Four last season, return everyone from that team and add in 1st Team All-American Nykolas Mason. Mason has been out since February 7th, but if he is back this SAGU team can be a Championship contender. This team is long, athletic and just won the SAC Tournament. Delton Deal is a great coach and he has the group here to make a deep run.

Surprise team to make Kansas City: 

Stillman. Another team that was in Kansas City last year and return a lot from that team. Londell King, Trey Petty and Devin Merriweather are all really tough. This team knocked off Talladega and took Loyola to double OT. They have lost a lot of close games this year, but have the makeup of a team that does well in the tourney.

 

General Thoughts:

The Liston Quadrant has a lot of similarly paced teams as 10 teams within the quadrant average between 80 and 84ppg. Led by LSU Shreveport and LSU Alexandria who both average 84ppg. Oklahoma Wesleyan leads the way defensively, holding teams to just 62.2ppg. The quadrants leading scorer is Markell Turner out of Union. Turner is the reigning 2x Appalachian Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Joining him, from this quadrant, as Conference Player of the Year winners are Ryan Batte (TMU) and Cameron Hines (USAO). OKWU and Thomas More had great years and rightfully so, the favorites to reach the Fab Four. However, with so many “like” teams, don’t be surprised if there are quite a few upsets. There are 7 regular season champions and 7 tournament champions inside the quadrant with five of those teams winning both the regular season and tournament championships. A lot of teams who are playing their best basketball right now. It makes for a lot of fun opening round matchups and a ton of VERY intriguing potential future matchups!

 

Park City Pod

#1 Oklahoma Wesleyan vs #16 Saint Katherine

OKWU has been a well oiled machine down the stretch here. They face off against a USK team that most people may not know much about, but a team that won both the CalPac regular season and tournament championships. They may not be as deep as OKWU, but they have a lot of fight in them. OKWU just keeps running guys at you though and it wears teams down. USK has their hands full here.

 

#8 IU South Bend vs #9 Kansas Wesleyan

Another one of those under the radar type opening round games. Although, with a 8v9 matchup, you expect good games. Jun Murdock and AJ Range will lead the way on for KWU. They will go up against a very veteran IUSB team led by Dylan Allen and Miles Tracy. Two teams who  are so much alike, and that should lead to a great game!

 

Via @DroverAthletics
Alexandria Pod

#4 USAO vs #13 LSU Alexandria

These two never got the chance to meet up in the early season ‘Battle at the Beach’ tournament. They now though, get to meet up in the NAIA opening round game. LSUA is coming off their worse loss of the season, a 50pt loss to Shreveport. AJ Rainey and Jakemin Abney will look to get the Generals on track in this one. USAO will counter with one of the best backcourts in the NAIA in Cameron Hines and Stephon Hall.

 

#5 LSU Shreveport vs #12 Missouri Baptist

Leondre Washington and the Pilots had a very tough early season schedule. It helped them run through the RRAC this season. They face a team in Missouri Baptist, that has a lot to prove and who will be motivated to pull off this upset. This MoBap team has a lot of Texas and Louisiana connections, so they could end up having a decent crowd for this one. John Yaeger has been great and hit the game winner to get them into the tournament. We will see if they can pull off this upset!

 

Via @SAGUSportsNet
Waxahachie Pod

#3 Montana Tech vs #14 MACU

MACU battled some early Covid issues to start 0-6 in league play. They turned it around though and played good basketball down the stretch to get into the tournament. They face a very good Montana Tech team who were the Frontier Conf. Co-Champs and then went on to win the FC Tournament. Sindou Diallo is so fun to watch. Isaiah Hammons and Tony Dorsey will look to lead MACU to an upset!

 

#6 SAGU vs #11 Central Methodist

We will see who is all playing here for SAGU, but if fully healthy, and at home, they are the favorite to win this Pod. CMU does matchup well though with Jonathan Brown and Tim Cameron on the outside and Fode Camera on the inside. If they can rebound with SAGU, they can give themselves a chance for the upset. Joshua Kashila and Joel Polius are both a handful though and the Bolling’s can really shoot it from the perimeter. A lot of weapons to try to stop.

Crestview Hills Pod

#2 Thomas More vs #15 Grand View

Thomas More is one of the best teams in the country, who also get to play at home. Ryan Miller and Grand View are going to have their hands full with this one. The good part for Grand View is that they matchup size wise pretty well. They will have to be hitting 3’s to pull off an upset though. They will also have to slow down MSC Player of the Year, Ryan Batte.

#7 Stillman vs #10 Union

This is another really intriguing first round matchup as it features some really good players in Markelle Turner and Andre Silva of Union squaring off against the Stillman trio of Londell King, Trey Petty and Devin Merriweather. Turner is an electric scorer who if Stillman lets get loose, could lead Union to an upset here. 

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