NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championships – Fab Four Preview
Unfortunately, I will be watching online as I had to get back to work for a project deadline. BUT, had a blast in Kansas City once again this year. It is always good to catch up with old friends and great to meet so many new people this year! It has been another fun and productive year for us and it is always a great trip to Kansas City to watch the best of the best go at it for a National Title. There were a lot of great teams who’s seasons ended earlier then they wanted, but at the end of the day, there are no surprise teams in the Fab Four. All four teams were Top 10 for most of the season and all very talented and well coached teams! Going to be a great final three games of the season tonight and tomorrow!!
Fab Four Podcast
And Then There Were Just Four…
- #1 Loyola (35-1)
- Champions of both the Southern States Athletic Conference Regular Season and Tournament Titles.
- Defeated #16 BenU Mesa, #9 Florida College, #4 Faulkner and #3 College of Idaho
- #1 Arizona Christian (31-4)
- Golden State Athletic Conference Regular Season Champions.
- Defeated #16 Tougaloo, #9 Xavier, #5 Bethel (KS) and #3 William Jessup
- #2 Talladega (31-5)
- Runner-Up to Loyola in both the SSAC Regular Season and Tournament.
- Defeated #15 Washington Adventist, #7 Cumberland, #6 Jamestown, #5 Concordia (NE)
- #2 Thomas More (30-4)
- Mid-South Conference Regular Season Champions.
- Defeated #15 Grand View, #7 Stillman, #6 SAGU, #1 Oklahoma Wesleyan
Fab Four Matchups
5pm: #1 Arizona Christian vs #1 Loyola
Arizona Christian Probable Starters
#1 Angelo Johnson 5’8 SR – 11.9ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.1apg, 1.8spg
#3 Micah Bradford 6’0 SR 5.9ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.8apg
#4 Dennis Flowers III 6’2 SO – 10.4ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.6apg
#24 Bryce Davis 6’7 SR – 9.7ppg, 4.5rpg
#32 Robby Wilson 6’9 SR – 10.3ppg, 6.1rpg
Loyola Probable Starters
#10 Brandon Davis – 6’1 SO – 15.5ppg, 3.0rpg, 4.3apg, 2.1spg
#22 Andrew Fava – 5’10 SR – 9.8ppg, 1.4rpg, 2.2apg
#03 Myles Burns 6’6 SR -14.8ppg, 8.3rpg, 3.6apg, 4.1spg
#23 Zach Wrightsil 6’7 SR – 18.7ppg, 8.7rpg, 3.6apg, 2.0spg SSAC POY
#34 Terry Smith Jr – 6’5 SR – 8.7ppg, 5.1rpg
Loyola came into the National Tournament as the favorite to win the entire thing and so far they have held serve! They boast two of the top five players in the NAIA in Zach Wrightsil and Myles Burns. They have another All-American (Most likely) in Brandon Davis and a bunch of really talented role guys around them like Andrew Fava, Terry Smith Jr and Jalon Galloway. Galloway comes off the bench for Loyola, but is a former All-American with College of Idaho. He hit the go ahead 3 in the QF matchup, against CofI, to spark a 13-1 run to end the game and give Loyola the win. Davis actually sat out of their QF game against College of Idaho with a stomach bug. A bug that was making it’s rounds around the Loyola program. Hopefully they can all make it to the floor tonight. They will switch up between some man to man pressure and their 1-3-1 half court trap. Both defenses are designed to create chaos for the offense and they do such a great job of turning people over. With all of that being said, this Arizona Christian squad has the guard fire power to beat the pressure defense in All-American PG, Angelo Johnson, Micah Bradford and Dennis Flowers III. They also have the big guys inside in Robby Wilson, Bryce Davis and Xander Bowers to help get easy buckets on the inside. Arizona Christian is also no slouch defensively as they do a great job of taking away other teams best players and forcing others to beat them. Two great coaches in Stacy Hollowell and Jeff Ruter. Two programs who have made deep KC runs before and will both be prepared and ready to go in this one!
7pm: #2 Talladega vs #2 Thomas More
Thomas More Probable Starters
#14 Jacob Jones 5’9 FY – 9.5ppg, 2.7rpg, 3.1apg
#2 Luke Rudy 6’5 GR – 10.6ppg, 3.0rpg
#3 Reid Jolly 6’5 SO – 13.3ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.4apg
#24 Garren Bertsch 6’5 GR -8.6ppg, 3.8rpg, 1.1apg
#1 Ryan Batte 6’6 JR – 21.2ppg, 7.1rpg, 2.8apg – MSC POY
Talladega Probable Starters
#0 Cam Potts 6’1 SR – 8.3ppg, 4.2rpg, 6.6apg
#23 Jervay Green 6’3 SR – 9.8ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.3apg
#3 Darryl Baker 6’4 SR – 19.3ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.4apg
#35 Davion Thomas 6’9 SR – 6.7ppg, 3.8rpg
#34 Amir Yusuf 6’9 SR -7.0ppg, 6.3rpg
Expect a lot of ice baths after this one as this game is going to be a physical, defensive battle with a lot of hard collisions at the rim and in the paint. Two more well coached programs in Justin Ray and Chris Wright. Thomas More boasts National Player of the Year candidate, Ryan Batte, who is having a really great tournament. Batte is so tough on both ends of the floor and even as an undersized Forward, he doesn’t back down against guys taller than him. He is tough and loves contact. He is also one of the best midpost threats in the NAIA. While he can step out and hit 3’s, Batte’s skillset is in the short corner and high post slots where he can drive and get to the rim, but he also has great feet and can play 1 on 1 with defenders and get to his scoring spots. He is also a terrific passer. Alongside of him is Reid Jolly, which we will see if he returns for this game or not after looking to reinjure his knee early in the Quarterfinal matchup and sitting out nearly the entire game. That is their dynamic duo and if Jolly can’t go that is a big loss. Especially against a tough defensive minded Talladega squad that can make scoring difficult on opponents. Luke Rudy went off in Game 1, but was quite in game two. They are going to need guys like him, Garren Bertsch and their bench to step up their games today! With Dega, you can pick your poison at this point! Darryl Baker is their All-American, and while he has had a good year, it’s his teammates who are having huge tournaments thus far. Baker has still been good, but Cam Potts has been also been really good and Jervay Green has taken his game to another level in Kansas City. They are also getting major bench contributions. All of that added up makes it hard to focus on just 1 or 2 guys. Like we said earlier, expect a lot of physical play in this one and whoever is able to play through it and still find ways to score will win this game!