POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – (Press Book PDF) (Live Stats) (Bracket) The 23rd annual NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship will feature 32 teams competing in the single-elimination tournament. The event starts Wednesday in Point Lookout, Mo., on the campus of College of the Ozarks.
There will be 31 games played in a span of six days with the national championship final at 6:05 p.m. CDT on March 18 and broadcast live on ESPN3.
NeuLion, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company of 17 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting the first 30 games of the Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship. Don’t miss the live video stream of all of the action running from March 12 – 18. For more information and to pre-register, clickhere.
Embry-Riddle (Fla.) and No. 10-seed Midland (Neb.) tip-off the championship at 8:30 a.m. CDT on Wednesday. The Eagles (24-7) are one of eight programs to be playing in at least their 10th-or-more championship. Midland (26-5) is making its third all-time appearance, all coming since 2000, and is seeking its second-straight trip to the Quarterfinals.
No. 1-seed Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) returns in defense of its national championship title from a year ago. The Wolves (29-4) claimed their first-ever championship with a 73-59 victory over William Penn (Iowa) in 2013. Derek Semenas leads the charge the year with 24.2 points per game, which is ninth in Division II. Cardinal Stritch carries an 11-9 championship mark into its First Round match-up with Northern New Mexico (16-15) on Wednesday at Noon.
College of the Ozarks is hosting for the 15th-straight year and will take to the court on Wednesday at 8 p.m. against No. 2-seed College of Idaho (28-5). The Bobcats (21-10) lead all Division II programs with 18 championship appearances and hold a 27-16 all-time mark in the national championship. Meanwhile, College of Idaho is making its first trip since 2007 and is one of the hottest teams this year, entering the championship on a Division II-best 15-game win streak.
Bethel (Ind.) stands 27-7 all-time in the playoffs, which is the most championship wins among the 32 qualifiers. The Pilots (26-7), who face No. 15 Cal Maritime (27-5), are looking up at the 29 and 33 championship wins by Northwestern (Iowa) and Oregon Tech, respectively, for the most all-time victories. Both of those teams failed to qualify this year.
There are five newcomers that punched their first-ever ticket to the National Championship: Cincinnati Christian (Ohio), Northern New Mexico, Northwest Christian (Ore.), Reinhardt (Ga.) and Southeastern (Fla.). Conversely, 15 programs are back in Point Lookout after a 2013 trip: Bellevue (Neb.), Bethel, Cal Maritime, Cardinal Stritch, Davenport (Mich.), Dordt (Iowa), Embry-Riddle, IU Southeast (Ind.), Indiana Wesleyan, Midland, Northwood (Fla.), Ozarks, Saint Xavier (Ill.), St. Thomas (Fla.) and William Penn (Iowa). Three of these teams, Cardinal Stritch, IU Southeast and William Penn, were participants in the Semifinals last year.
Besides the 15-straight trips for College of the Ozarks, No. 8-seed Bellevue (Neb.) is competing in its 12th-consecutive national championship, which is second-longest. The Bruins (28-5), who are 20-14 in postseason action, clash with Concordia (Ore.) (22-9) on Wednesday at 9:45 p.m.
The Crossroads League and The Sun Conference each landed four qualifiers in the championship field. Four other conferences are sending three programs each: Cascade Collegiate Conference, Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, Great Plains Athletic Conference and the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference.
There are eight teams in this year’s field who own at least one national championship, led by Bethel’s three crowns (1995, 1997 and 1998). Cornerstone (Mich.), who claimed the top prize in 1999 and 2011, is the only other current qualifier with more than one title.
The 32-team field is comprised of 21 automatic qualifiers, one host berth awarded to College of the Ozarks and 10 at-large selections. Automatic qualification is given to conference regular-season champions, tournament champions or tournament runners-up depending on the league. At-large teams were determined using the final regular-season Coaches’ Top 25 Poll released on March 5.
For more information on the National Championship, click here.