NAIA MEN’S BASKETBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Opening Rounds | Langston, Okla. (All times Pacific)
4 p.m. Tuesday – (2) Langston (Okla.) vs (15) Southern Oregon (Round of 64)
6 p.m. Tuesday – (7) Southwestern (Kan.) vs. (10) Northwestern (Iowa) (Round of 64)
5 p.m. Wednesday – Round of 32
Complete Bracket | Live Streams | Live Stats
LANGSTON, Okla. – The Matt Zosel era of Southern Oregon men’s basketball is off to a promising start with an appearance NAIA National Championships. To do more than that, the Raiders will have to shock the field on Tuesday night.
Playing as the No. 15 seed in the Duer quadrant of the bracket, SOU (20-10) will be pitted against site host, No. 2 seed and No. 5-ranked Langston (Okla.) (29-2) in the Round of 64 at 4 p.m. Pacific Time inside Gayles Field House. The Lions’ 28-win turnaround is one of the NAIA’s major storylines heading into the tournament, and they profile as a championship contender after dominating the Sooner Athletic Conference. The Raiders, who received an at-large bid when the bracket was revealed last Thursday, will try to dent Langston’s perfect home record in their first tournament appearance since the NAIA’s two basketball divisions merged into one in 2020-21. The lowest seed to win a first-round game last season was a No. 12, and the lowest to reach the 16-team final site was a No. 8.
ABOUT LANGSTON: After going 1-37 combined in the 2020-21 and 21-22 seasons, the Lions brought in head coach Chris Wright, who last year guided Talladega (Ala.) to the championship game. He proceeded to rebuild the entire roster with proven collegiate performers, holding over just one player who has logged a total of 35 minutes this season. The new mix has been an undeniable success: Langston ranks fourth among 234 NAIA teams in offensive rating (117 points/100 possessions), fifth in defensive rating (88 points allowed/100 possessions), and second only to top-ranked College of Idaho in net rating. An offense with seven different players averaging at least eight points is noteworthy, but the Lions are especially dangerous on the defensive end, where they hold opponents to 41-percent shooting – including a lowly 28-percent clip from 3 – and force 17.7 turnovers per game, the sixth-best mark in the country. Tristan Harper, a 6-foot-6 forward who transferred from Middle Georgia, leads the team at 15.3 points on 53-percent shooting. Their next three double-figure scorers – AJ Rainey (13.3 points), D’Monte Brown (12.2 points) and Cortez Mosley (10.8 points) – combine to hit at 50 percent from the field. They’ve won their 14 home games by an average of 24.1 points, but were tested in SAC Tournament wins over fellow national qualifiers Southwest Assemblies of God (80-76) and Wayland Baptist (80-68).
IF THEY ADVANCE: Following the SOU-Langston matchup, No. 7 seed Southwestern (Kan.) (25-6) and No. 10 seed Northwestern (Iowa) (20-9) are scheduled to play Tuesday at 6 p.m. Pacific Time. The winners meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday for a spot at the 16-team final site, Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., where the rest of the tournament will be played from March 13-18.
Southwestern was the Kansas Collegiate Conference Tournament champion and is another explosive outfit behind 5-11 guard Cevin Clark, the fourth-leading scorer in the NAIA this season at 24.4 points per game. Entering the tourney, the Builders have won eight of their last nine games. Northwestern earned an at-large bid after placing fourth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and is excels from 3-point range, making the 12th-most triples per game (9.9) in the country. The Raiders feature another All-America candidate in guard Dillon Carlson, who averages a hair under 20 points and is hitting 3.5 3-pointers per outing.
- The Raiders can be counted on to attempt to upend the game from downtown – which is nothing new, considering they put up more 3-pointers (28.2/game) than all but nine NAIA squads and eight more per game than Langston. The Raiders are 14-3 when they make at least 10 3s, and they’re 20-3 when they score at least 70 points, with two of those losses coming in overtime.
- The Raiders are making their 10th all-time national tournament appearance. They’re 3-1 in first-round games over the last 10 years and were the lower seed in two of those wins. Their 20-win season is the team’s eighth in the last decade.
- Josh Meyer and Atmar Mundu were named to the All-Cascade Conference team last week – Meyer for the third time, Mundu for the first. Meyer was the only individual in conference play to rank top-10 in both assists (4.1, 4th) and rebounds (7.1, 6th), and he’s averaged 13 points over 72 career outings at SOU. Mundu has now scored in double figures 35 consecutive games dating back to last season and leads the team at 16.5 points per game. Will Graves, who is averaging 14.6 points in his last 10 games, received All-CCC honorable mention.
- Tez Allen – who is top-10 all-time at SOU in assists, rebounds and steals, and 20th in points – will be making his 12th career postseason start. Over his last five, he’s averaged 13 points on 51-percent shooting, going 9-of-16 from 3. He’s the only player on the active roster who was around for SOU’s last national tournament since in 2020.
- Dominic McGarvey is shooting 59 percent from the field and averaging six rebounds and 1.6 blocks over eight games since the start of February.
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