2023 NAIA Men’s Basketball Championship Preview
Sortable Team Stats
March 7th Schedule (All Times CT)
No. 7 Iowa Wesleyan vs. No. 10 Evangel (Mo.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 4 Morningside (Iowa) vs. No. 13 Columbia (Mo.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 2 Oklahoma Wesleyan vs. No. 15 Concordia (Neb.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 2 Indiana Tech vs. No. 15 IU South Bend (Ind.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 3 Loyola (La.) vs. No. 14 SAGU (Texas) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 4 Huntington (Ind.) vs. No. 13 Pikeville (Ky.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 5 Kansas Wesleyan vs. No. 12 IU Kokomo (Ind.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 7 Ottawa (Ariz.) vs. No. 10 Baker (Kan.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 5 LSU Shreveport (La.) vs. No. 12 Thomas (Ga.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 7 The Masters (Calif.) vs. No. 10 St. Thomas (Fla.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan vs. No. 11 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 8 Rio Grande (Ohio) vs. No. 9 Marian (Ind.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 6 Union (Ky.) vs. No. 11 Southeastern (Fla.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 8 Antelope Valley (Calif.) vs. No. 9 Wayland Baptist (Texas) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 8 Xavier (La.) vs. No. 9 Hope International (Calif.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 1 Grace (Ind.) vs. No. 16 Columbia International (S.C.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 6 Peru State (Neb.) vs. No. 11 Mayville State (N.D.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 6 Tougaloo (Miss.) vs. No. 11 Texas A&M Texarkana Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 4 Dordt (Iowa) vs. No. 13 Bethel (Ind.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 5 Thomas More (Ky.) vs. No. 12 Eastern Oregon Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 3 Georgetown (Ky.) vs. No. 14 Lourdes (Ohio) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 2 Langston (Okla.) vs. No. 15 Southern Oregon Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 3 Faulkner (Ala.) vs. No. 14 Shawnee State (Ohio) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 2 Florida College vs. No. 15 Life (Ga.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 1 College of Idaho vs. No. 16 Westcliff (Calif.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 1 William Penn (Iowa) vs. No. 16 Saint Xavier (Ill.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 8 Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) vs. No. 9 Madonna (Mich) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 1 Arizona Christian vs. No. 16 Corban (Ore.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 3 Jamestown (N.D.) vs. No. 14 Bethel (Kan.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 2 Florida College vs. No. 15 Life (Ga.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 5 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) vs. No. 12 IU Southeast (Ind.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 4 Montana Tech vs. No. 13 Westmont (Calif.) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
No. 7 Southwestern (Kan.) vs. No. 10 Northwestern (Iowa) Live Stats/Box Score | Live Video
- Faulkner, Bethel (KS), Indiana Wesleyan, Oklahoma Wesleyan, SAGU, Loyola, Jamestown – All seven teams have made back-to-back trips to Kansas City.
- Mayville State leads the field in points per game at 92.8ppg. William Penn (91ppg), Dordt (90.6ppg), Union (ppg) and College of Idaho (87.5ppg) round up your Top 5 scoring teams in the bracket.
- William Penn leads the field in RPG with 48.7rpg. Union (45.9), College of Idaho (42.6), Columbia (41.8) and Grace (41.7) make up your Top 5 rebounding teams.
- There are only four teams who have made over 300 3’s on the season. Jamestown (355), St. Thomas (334), Florida College (330) and Rio Grande (305).
- College of Idaho is the only 30-win team entering the National Championships. They also hold the longest winning streak coming in at 30 games.
- Tougaloo 16 straight wins, IU Southeast 15 straight wins, and Grace and Westcliff both with 10 straight wins are your only teams (w/COI) who have double figure win streaks coming in.
- Mason Walters (Jamestown) leads all scorers at 26.1ppg. He is, at the moment, the frontrunner for NAIA Player of the Year.
Road To Muni Podcast
It’s a LOOOONG episode, so we apologize, but we tried to provide the best coverage we could! You diehards should love it, but maybe need to listen to this one in multiple segments!
Fab Four Preview – Road To Muni Podcast
Regular Season Champions: College of Idaho, Loyola, Tougaloo, Florida College
Conference Tournament Champions: College of Idaho, Xavier, Westcliff, Loyola, Tougaloo
Conference POY Winners: Zach Goodline (Huntington), Jalen Brooks (Shreveport), Cameron Copeland (Tougaloo), Matt Simpson (Floria College), Kaleb Lowery (The Master’s).
Best Opening Round Matchup: Huntington vs Pikeville
Possible 2nd Round Game we would most like to see: Loyola vs Texarkana
Lower Seed To Keep Eye On: 7-seed The Master’s (CA)
Host: College of Idaho| Caldwell, Idaho
1. College of Idaho
8. Xavier (La.)
9. Hope International (Calif.)
16. Westcliff (Calif.)
College of Idaho vs Westcliff – CoI will come into the tournament as one of the favorites to win a National Championship. They have won 30 straight games coming into the National Championships. Westcliff though is red hot as well. This is a team that has won 10 straight games coming into this one. No easy task going to Caldwell to knock off the #1 team in the NAIA though. The Yotes are a well-oiled machine and are clicking on all cylinders. Charles Elzie was the Cascade DPOY and when the Yotes get their defense locked in, it is really tough to score on them. Westcliff is going to try to control the tempo as they are one of the slowest paced teams in the NAIA.
Xavier vs Hope International – Two teams that played for their league tournament title. XULA was able to win the RRAC while HIU lost to OUAZ in the title game. Jelani Horn leads this Pod in scoring with Sebastian Castro and Charles Neal all in the top five in the POD in ppg. As good of a defensive team as XULA is they have their hands full in this one. As good as the GSAC is, XULA will be one of the better defensive teams that HIU has seen this season. If Xavier shoots the ball from deep like they did in the RRAC Tourney, they will be tough to beat. Them and Westcliff are the two least scoring teams in the 64-team field.
Host: Alexandria Pineville Area CVB | Alexandria, La.
4. Huntington (Ind.)
5. LSU Shreveport (La.)
12. Thomas (Ga.)
13. Pikeville (Ky.)
Huntington vs Pikeville – Two dynamic scorers face off in this one as the Crossroads Player of the Year, Zach Goodline of Huntington and Pikeville’s Teddy Parham, who led the Mid-South in scoring, this season square off. Lane Sparks is also spectacular for Huntington. This may be the game to watch in the opening round. Pikeville will need to control the tempo in this game.
LSU Shreveport vs Thomas – Jalen Brooks (Shreveport) is arguably the best player in the NAIA. He is the engine that makes the Pilots go and won the RRAC POY, DPOY and Newcomer of the Year. The Pilots also get an advantage as they just played their league title in Rapides Coliseum this past week, so they will be used to the floor. Thomas is the wildcard of the group. The Night Hawks started off the season Red Hot and have wins over Texarkana, Southeastern Florida and St. Thomas. Jordan Booker and Mohammad Abubakar can give Shreveport fits.
Host: Loyola (La.) | New Orleans, La.
3. Loyola (La.)
6. Tougaloo (Miss.)
11. Texas A&M Texarkana
14. SAGU (Texas)
Loyola vs SAGU – Both of these teams have had a lot of recent success in the NAIA National Championships. Loyola is the defending National Champions. SAGU is two years removed from a Fab Four appearance. Jalen Galloway, former All-American at College of Idaho, was on last year’s National Title team and has jumped into a bigger role this year. He was just named the SSAC Tournament MVP. Him and SSAC Newcomer of the Year, Michael Harden, give the Wolf Pack a really good 1-2 punch. SAGU counters with Cortland Blake and Brooks Haddock. They have made the 5th most 3’s out of the 64 teams in the field. If SAGU can continue to shoot the ball well, they can win this Pod.
Tougaloo vs Texarkana – Really fun matchup as one of the best “small” guards in the NAIA, Kobe Powell (Texarkana) will face off against the GCAC POY, Cameron Copeland. Tougaloo has felt disrespected all season long. They now get to hit the court and prove how good they really are. This Texarkana team has had a really good season themselves. The Eagles led the RRAC until the final week of the regular season. Tougaloo, for being a 1-loss team, isn’t talked about much. They are a sneaky team that not many people are going to know a lot about. That makes them also really dangerous.
Host: Florida College | Lakeland, Fla.
2. Florida College
7. The Masters (Calif.)
10. St. Thomas (Fla.)
15. Life (Ga.)
Florida College vs Life
This is a really fun Pod! Florida College earned the 2-seed after having a big regular season that saw them get the 1-overall seed in the CAC Tournament. They are coming off a loss in the CAC Championship game to Iowa Wesleyan, but when healthy this is a team that is/was really dangerous. Unfortunately, it sounds like they won’t be back to full strength in this one. They may get Anthony Bittar back, which is a big shot in the arm. The good news is that they still have Matt Simpson, who is the 2x CAC Player of the Year. Matty Ice has had some big games in his career and the Falcons will be leaning on him once again. For Life, it;s the SSAC Freshman of the Year, Joshua Ward, who will be looking to lead Life to the upset! Florida College will look to push the tempo while Life is going to try and slow things down. The one who can control the pace of the game should win this one!
The Master’s vs St Thomas
Sophomore, Kaleb Lowery, was named the GSAC Player of the Year this season and the 6’8 Forward is a lot of fun to watch. The Master’s, being a fairly young team, have been really hot and cold this season. They are very capable of making it to Kansas City but are also capable of losing this opening round game to a VERY talented St. Thomas team. STU is led by Milton Matthews and are one of the top 3pt shooting teams in the field. The Master’s defense has been really good this season, so they are going to have to guard the 3pt line today. For STU, they are going to have to have a good gameplan for Kaleb Lowery, but this is also a talented and deep Mustang team. This is one of our favorite opening round games!
Regular Season Champions: Wiliam Penn, Grande, Montana Tech, Union, Southeastern FL, Oklahoma Wesleyan
Conference Tournament Champions: William Penn, Montana Tech, Southeastern FL, Ottawa AZ
Conference POY Winners: Caleb Bellach (Montana Tech). Reid Jolly (Thomas More), Phillip Malatare (Eastern Oregon), CJ Hines (Faulkner), Markell Turner (Union), Riley Minix (Southeastern FL), Jaden Lietzke (OKWU)
Best Opening Round Matchup: Union vs Southeastern (FL)
Possible 2nd Round Game we would most like to see: William Penn vs Marian
Lower Seed To Keep Eye On: 9-seed Marian
Host: William Penn (Iowa) | Oskaloosa, Iowa
1. William Penn (Iowa)
8. Rio Grande (Ohio)
9. Marian (Ind.)
16. Saint Xavier (Ill.)
William Penn vs Saint Xavier – William Penn is hosting the Pod once again this season. This year though, they are looking to make it out of their home Pod. Life isn’t easy here though as this is one of the toughest Pods in the entire bracket. They first will host Saint Xavier. SXU, led by one of the more prolific scorers in the NAIA in Jaeden King. They are also one of the best 3pt shooting teams in the bracket as they boast the 3rd best 3pt shooting % in the field. For the Statesmen, they are led by Sophomore, Malik Edwards. The dynamic scorer has had some big games this season. William Penn leads the entire field in RPG at 48.7. They also have two of the top rebounders in Eddie Daley and Muneer Newton. This game has shootout potential as both teams are fast and athletic.
Rio Grande vs Marian – Rio, led by Shiloah Blevins and Miki Tadic have had a really nice season. They get a really tough draw in Marian, who when healthy, is a Top 15 team in the NAIA. Taeshon Cherry is the real deal and Christian Harvey and Hayen Langkabel give the Knights a really tough trio to stop. It will be interesting to see the Rio game plan here. This is a team that has been tough defensively and if Tadic is on Cherry, he is going to need to stay out of foul trouble! Should be a very good opening round game!
Host: Montana Tech | Butte, Mont.
4. Montana Tech
5. Thomas More (Ky.)
12. Eastern Oregon
13. Westmont (Calif.)
Montana Tech vs Westmont
Oddly enough, both Westmont and Thomas More will be leaving the NAIA after this season. In this one, Caleb Bellach and the Ore Diggers of Montana Tech have been so tough this season. After being the top seed last year in their Pod and having to go play a true road game against SAGU for the right to go to Kansas City, Tech now gets to host two games at home this year. They will start with a Westmont team that has some big wins this season including knocking off Arizona Christian earlier this season. Westmont will be looking to leave the NAIA with a bang and try to pull off a couple of upsets here!
Thomas More vs Eastern Oregon – Mid-South POY, Reid Jolly, and Thomas More are coming off a trip to the NAIA Fab Four last season. This year. the Saints have been a bit inconsistent. If they can piece, it together for the next couple games then they are very capable of making a return trip to Kansas City. Eastern Oregon has a POY of their own though as Phillip Malatare, after winning the Cascade POY, will be looking to lead the Mounties to Kansas City.
Host: Faulkner (Ala.) | Montgomery, Ala.
3. Faulkner (Ala.)
6. Union (Ky.)
11. Southeastern (Fla.)
14. Shawnee State (Ohio)
Faulkner vs Shawnee State – CJ Hines has been tremendous, but this Eagle team goes deeper than just him. Trace Hill and Daniel Garmenda are also very capable of going off and leading the Eagles to a victory. Shawnee State and their pack line defense has given teams fits the past few years. They won a National Title just two years ago and now look to get back to Kansas City this year. The Bears are led by Brandon Beavers and Latavious Mitchell. We know the Bears are going to be good defensively but now it’s those two, along with Tre Baumgardner are going to have to score enough points to help them take down Faulkner.
Union vs Southeastern FL – Markelle Turner (Union) vs Riley Minix (Southeastern)?!?!? Maybe our favorite player matchup of the opening round. These two teams couldn’t have had more opposite of seasons. Union was a 1-loss team heading into the AAC Tournament before losing. SEU really struggled early on in the season, but then they went on a magical run that led them to the SUN Tournament Champions. Union was ranked 3rd in the NAIA in the final NAIA Poll and have shared their displeasure with the seed they were given. The Bulldogs have one of the best trios in the NAIA in Turner, Markello Sulivan and Terrin Hamilton. Southeastern is going to have to slow down this high-powered offense if they want a chance to win.
Host: Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference | Park City, Kan.
2. Oklahoma Wesleyan
7. Ottawa (Ariz.)
10. Baker (Kan.)
15. Concordia (Neb.)
Oklahoma Wesleyan vs Concordia NE
These two teams actually met back on December 30th on a neutral floor. A game in which OKWU won 79-74. For OKWU, they are led by KCAC POY, Jaden Leitzke. Jaden is one of the best big men in the NAIA and he is a real force around the rim. The Eagles are also one of the best defensive teams in the country as well. This is a team that swarms the ball on every drive and is able to rotate and recover defensively after the kickout. Kaleb Stokes and Derrick Talton add to this talented OKWU team. For CUNE, Noah Schutte and Gage Smith are going to have to have big time performances to help propel the Bulldogs to the win. That is something that we have seen a lot over the course of this season though. These two are special and you can expect special things from them in this one.
Ottawa AZ vs Baker – OUAZ won back-to-back GSAC Tournament Titles. They now head off to Kansas to play a feisty Baker squad. Josiah De laCerda and Ottawa are a lot of fun to watch. They play fast, attack the rim and compete on the glass. Jalen Patterson and Baker are looking for their first ever NAIA postseason win. Two teams who are pretty evenly matched and should lead to a very tough game.
Regular Season Champions: Grace, Olivet Nazarene, Georgetown, Langston
Conference Tournament Champions: Grace, Madonna, Columbia International, Dordt, Freed-Hardeman, IU Southeast, Langston, Southwestern KS
Conference POY Winners: Tyler Schmidt (Olivet Nazarene), Tristan Harper (Langston)
Best Opening Round Matchup: Southwestern KS vs Northwestern IA
Possible 2nd Round Game we would most like to see: Georgetown vs Indiana Wesleyan
Lower Seed To Keep Eye On: 7-seed Southwestern KS
Host: Grace (Ind.) | Winona Lake, Ind.
1. Grace (Ind.)
8. Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)
9. Madonna (Mich.)
16. Columbia International (S.C.)
Grace vs Columbia International
Columbia International, from the 7-seed, won the AAC Tournament this season. That is quite the feat and you can expect the Rams to come into this game playing loose. They have nothing to lose here so no need to play timid. We have talked about Grace all season long. They have the guard play, the depth and the talent that makes them a serious National Title contender. Frankie Davidson and Elijah Malone are two of the best players in the NAIA. They provide some serious mismatch issues for CIU.
Olivet Nazarene vs Madonna
This is a really great matchup in the opening round. The Madonna trio of Mark Mettie, Henry Speight and Brendan Young just helped lead Madonna to the WHAC Tournament Title. This game is no easy matchup for them though. The CCAC POY, Tyler Schmidt and ONU are tough. If they can win this game and Grace wins theirs, we will get a rematch of last year’s opening round title game. A game where, Grace went to ONU and knocked them off. I am sure they would love to return the favor this season!
Host: Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) | Henderson, Tenn.
4. Dordt (Iowa)
5. Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
12. IU Southeast (Ind.)
13. Bethel (Ind.)
Dordt vs Bethel IN
Points will be scored in this game! Dordt, offensively plays with great tempo and they rank 3rd in the field in ppg this season. Bethel, led by the dynamic scorer, Drew Lutz, plays up-tempo as well. If Lutz and Nathan Aerts can get going, Bethel will be a tough out. For Dordt, it’s been a lot of the Jacob Vis/Bryce Coppock show. The four players listed above are the reason why we are really looking forward to this game! These offenses are a lot of fun and both teams have the star power to take over games!
Freed-Hardeman vs IU Southeast
FHU is hosting this pod as the 2-seed. Which normally would make you feel good, but this is a tough Pod, where we just saw Dordt go to Jamestown and knock off the Jimmies for a GPAC Title and we saw IU Southeast go to both Rio Grande and IU Kokomo and come away victorious on their way to a RSC Tournament Title. For FHU, it’s Brandon Thomas and Ryley McClaran who pace the FHU offense. JJ Wheat and JaQuan Lax have also put up really nice numbers this season. IU Southeast comes in on a 16-game winning streak. They are led by Jocobi Hendricks and Anthony Wales. We will see if IUS can extend their streak with another tough road win in the opening round.
Host: Georgetown (Ky.) | Georgetown, Ky.
3. Georgetown (Ky.)
6. Indiana Wesleyan
11. MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)
14. Lourdes (Ohio)
Georgetown vs Lourdes
Georgetown saw the return of Jake Ohmer at semester and have been cruising since. The Tigers won the Mid-South regular season title and was rolling in the MSC Championship game before Freed-Hardeman went on a big late run to take the crown. This is a very good, talented and deep team. Chris Briggs is one of the best coaches in the NAIA and they are used to winning. The Tigers took an early exit last year and will look to not repeat that fortune this week. We love this Lourdes team, but this is a VERY tough draw for them. Georgetown doesn’t lose much at home and while Lourdes will be unphased coming into this game, This is a tough and gritty team, led by Joey Holifield. If Lourdes is going to pull off the upset here, they are going to need Clif Snow and Little Anderson to also have big showings!
Indiana Wesleyan vs MidAmerica Nazarene
Both of these teams were ranked inside the Top 25 for the better part of the year. This is another one of the “under the radar” type games. MNU is loaded with talent. Ed Wright and Anthony Brown are a ton of fun to watch. They started to fade a bit 2nd semester, but maybe they can find themselves here and make a run. As great as it would be to have a matchup between two of the most storied programs in the NAIA over the past 10-15 years, MNU is very capable of winning this game. If they are going to pull off the upset though, they are going to have to have a good gameplan for Seth Maxwell. I am not sure they have seen anyone with his size and abilities this season. There aren’t a ton of great bigs in the Heart, so they wouldn’t have to double team much. This has the makings of what could be one of the best opening round games of the National Championships.
Host: Langston (Okla.) | Langston, Okla.
2. Langston (Okla.)
7. Southwestern (Kan.)
10. Northwestern (Iowa)
15. Southern Oregon
Langston vs Southern Oregon – Langston, after being passed up for a 1-seed, is going to be really motivated for this game. Langston and Head Coach Chris Wright, knows how to push the right buttons and you just have a sense that this will help motivate the Lions a bit. They still have to get by a tough Southern Oregon team. For SOU, Atmar Mundu, Will Graves and Tez Allen will be tasked to pull off the upset! This is a team though that can get hot and if they are able to find some rhythm, they will give themselves a chance. They will have to find ways to slow down SAC POY, Tristan Harper and the Lions though!
Southwestern KS vs Northwestern IA – In the NAIA, directional schools are actually GOOD! Especially these two teams who have certainly had their ups and downs this season, but for the most part, the have both been really tough. Southwestern just won the KCAC Tournament. Cevin Clark may be playing as well as anyone in the country right now. Deng Bol and Andrew O’Brien add to the Builders Trio. For Northwestern, it’s the Dillon Carleson/Craig Sterk show. Both players are having big years and now will look to extend their season! These two teams are about as evenly matched as their is in any other opening round game!
Regular Season Champions: Arizona Christian, Antelope Valley, Jamestown, Indiana Tech
Conference Tournament Champions: Columbia, Mayville State, Iowa Wesleyan, IU South Bend
Conference POY Winners: Michael Hayes (Antelope Valley), Mason Walters (Jamestown), Thomas Gieske (Mayville State), Rog Stein (Indiana Tech) Josh Pritchett (Evangel)
Best Opening Round Matchup: Peru State vs Mayville State
Possible 2nd Round Game we would most like to see: Arizona Christian vs Wayland Baptist
Lower Seed To Keep Eye On: 6-seed Peru State
Host: Arizona Christian | Glendale, Ariz.
1. Arizona Christian
8. Antelope Valley (Calif.)
9. Wayland Baptist (Texas)
16. Corban (Ore.)
Arizona Chrisitan vs Corban
ACU, when healthy, has proven they are one of the best teams in the NAIA. The Firestorm, despite losing in the GSAC Semifinals, are poised to make another deep run this season. They have loads of talent, led by Mikah Blackwell, Angelo Johnson, Dennis Flowers, Bryce Davis and Trent Hudgens. For Corban, They are one of the lowest scoring teams in the field. Expect them to try and control the pace of play in this one. If they let ACU get out and running, they put themselves at risk of having a long night. On offense, Corban is really balanced. They are led by Darius Henderson with 13.5ppg. They will need Taylor Anderson and Mateo Escheik to both have good games as well to win this one!
Antelope Valley vs Wayland Baptist
A VERY intriguing matchup as we get an Antelope Valley team who, until the CALPAC Semifinals, had been dominating the league this season. Unfortunately, that loss most likely cost them some seeing as the come in as an 8-seed and have to face off against a really good Wayland Baptist team. WBU is led by Tedrick Wolfe. The former All-American is one of the better two-way players in the NAIA. Antelope Valley is led by the CALPAC POY, Michael Hayes. This is a really intriguing game because UAV hasn’t gotten a ton of respect Nationally this season. The Sooner Athletic Conference, where WBU plays, has been pretty overlooked all season as well. Both of these teams will come into this game with a chip on their shoulder.
Host: Visit Wichita/Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference | Wichita, Kan.
4. Morningside (Iowa)
5. Kansas Wesleyan
12. IU Kokomo (Ind.)
13. Columbia (Mo.)
Morningside vs Columbia
Tony Burks for Columbia is a lot of fun to watch. He is capable of going for 40 in this one and helping the Cougars to the upset. If that is going to happen though, Columbia is going to have to figure out how they are going to stop Ely Doble and Joey Skoff for the Mustangs. For Columbia, expect them to try and control the pace in this one. They prefer to play in the low 70’s if possible. Holding Morningside to that is tough, but if they can hold them under 75pts, they will give themselves a real shot at winning this game!
Kansas Wesleyan vs IU Kokomo
Kansas Wesleyan had a really good regular season. It all came to a halt in the opening round of the KCAC Tournament with an upset loss to Sterling. Sometimes a late loss like that can really spark a team though so we will see how they respond in this game against IU Kokomo. Kokomo is going to have their hands full with Alex Littlejohn and Jun Murdock. The duo has been really good this season. IUK is led by Hunter White and Darian Porch. This is a team that was in Kansas City last year and knows how to win tournament games. Very under the radar opening round game if there was one!
Host: Jamestown (N.D.) | Jamestown, N.D.
3. Jamestown (N.D.)
6. Peru State (Neb.)
11. Mayville State (N.D.)
14. Bethel (Kan.)
Jamestown vs Bethel KS
Mason Walters has put his campaign together for National Player of the Year. While he is the favorite to win it, a deep run by Jamestown would nearly seal the deal. The Jimmies, who have made back-to-back trips to Kansas City, are ready to make another big run. They draw Bethel, another team who has made back-to-back trips to Kansas City. The Threshers were on a mission 2nd semester as they came storming up the KCAC Standings to finish 3rd. Then they capped it off with an appearance in the KCAC Tournament Title game. Clifford Byrd has had a big-time career. Bryant Mocaby has helped lighten the load as well. This game though, will come down to how the Threshers guard Mason Walters, because Jamestown is also one of the best shooting teams in the field and it makes it hard to double team Mason on the inside.
Peru State vs Mayville State – Crazy how the two teams who had in-season coaching changes end up meeting in the opening round of the NAIA National Championships. What a phenomenal job both Roman Gentry (Peru State) and Brandon McGruder (Mayville State) have done this season! Peru State has some serious talent. They are led by Man Man Baker, Jibril Harris and Lorenzo Anderson but also brought in D1 transfer, David Winget, at the break. They are very capable of making a deep run! First though, they must take down NSAA POY, Thomas Gieske and the Comets of Mayville State. No matter what happens in this game, what a great story both teams have been.
Host: Indiana Tech | Fort Wayne, Ind.
2. Indiana Tech
7. Iowa Wesleyan
10. Evangel (Mo.)
15. IU South Bend (Ind.)
Indiana Tech vs IU South Bend
WHAC POY, Rog Stein along with Josh Kline, Grant Smith and the 3x WHAC DPOY, Cory McKinney make the Warriors one of the oldest teams in the NAIA. They returned for their Grad Year to try to make a deep run at a National Title. You can expect Tech to be highly motivated in these games. The first one, they face off against IU South Bend, who just won the CCAC Tournament Title. Donyell Meredith and Dejon Barney lead the way for IUSB. If they are going to pull off the upset, they are going to have to really defend well and carry their momentum from the CCAC Tournament into this game!
Iowa Wesleyan vs Evangel
Iowa Wesleyan came from nowhere this season. They had just returned to the NAIA last season and the Tigers, after hiring Jordan Ashton, have been very, very good this season. They have two Top 20 wins on the season and are one of the best defensive teams in the NAIA. For Evangel, Heart POY, Josh Pritchett, will need to be the Valor’s go to threat against Iowa Wesleyan. While you don’t expect this game to be overly fast, look for Evangel to try to force the tempo at times just to take Iowa Wesleyan out of rhythm.