NAIA Nationals Preview: SAGU vs USAO
Lions look to avoid the Drovers’ lasso
KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- Thirty-two teams are all in one location for a week, each vying for a crown that only one will wear.
The Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team is part of that field, having qualified for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national championship tournament during March 13-19.
Having enjoyed their best season on record at 29-4, the Lions get the honor of playing the very first game on Wednesday.
They will tangle with the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (17-9) at 9:00am (CST).
Kansas City, known for its barbecue, will be serving up a full menu of college basketball this week.
Municipal Arena (capacity 10,500), which has hosted more NCAA Division I tournament games than any other site, operates as the NAIA’s home court for the entire venue.
The new Sprint Center, located just a few blocks away, will house the Big 12 Conference Tournament, also this week.
The NAIA champion will have to win five games in seven days, an arduous task compared to the NCAA winner, who must win six games over three weekends.
Video livestream of the NAIA’s tourney is available (pay-per-view) for the first three games the field will play. For the first time, the semi-finals will be broadcast by ESPN3, while CBS carries the final on March 19.
SAGU, the regular season champions of the Red River Athletic Conference, are ranked no. 6 in the nation. Their first opponent, USAO, finished third in the Sooner Athletic Conference, where the Lions will be next season.
The tournament list of seedings has SAGU at #6 and Science & Arts at #27. In 2006 a team from the RRAC, Texas Wesleyan University, won the tournament after opening as the twenty-seventh seed.
Prior to the start of the game the NAIA will introduce both team's Champions of Character representitive.
Maurice "Mo" Oglesby (Arlington, Tx / Zion Academy) was named the Lions' rep, and received a framed certificate at the Nationals Tournament Banquet on Tuesday night.
Neither the Lions nor the Drovers appeared in the preseason Top 25 Coaches Poll. SAGU was at no. 26 among those receiving votes, but were shy of cracking the leader board.
The Drovers (a person who drives cattle) moved up to no. 14 after a 7-1 start, and ascended to their high-water mark at no. 9 when they were 8-2 for the January 8 poll. They remained ranked before sliding out at the end of January.
Coached by Briscoe McPherson, the team finished in a tie for third in the SAC with a 9-7 mark.
They are one of four league teams to make the NAIA tourney, along with no. 4 John Brown University (Ark) (27-6), no. 10 Oklahoma Baptist University (24-7) and Oklahoma City University (17-10).
The Green & Gold average 71.5 points per game and will wear their home uniforms for the game. They have six players who score more than seven ppg.
Two seniors sure to be the object of attention by the SAGU defense are 6’2 guard Norris Rumph and 6’8 center Brandon Cutler.
Rumph is the cog in the wheel for the Drovers offense, averaging 15.9 ppg. He makes .425 of his shots from the field, and totes an impressive .439 accuracy from the beyond the arc. He has sunk 68 three-pointers.
Fouling the native of Savannah, Ga. brings no relief either as he converts .807 from the free throw line.
Rumph has nine games with 20+ points, highlighted by 31 against Lubbock Christian University last month.
Cutler can be tough to handle. Lean at 210 pounds, the agile post nets 13.3 ppg and reels in 5.7 rebounds per outing.
The USAO attack includes senior guard Phillip Harris (8.0 ppg), 6’3 junior guard Shavon Scott (7.9), Jahseth Lloyd (7.7), a 6’7 junior forward, and senior guard Dejuan Lofton (7.5) get quality minutes.
Lloyd paces the team on the boards with a 6.8 average, with 70 offensive caroms. A junior from Brooklyn, he also has rejected 31 shots.
Three reserve guards have long-range skills; Zacharias Lewis (20 threes), Kennis White (17), and Graham Faulkner (17).
USAO has an edge in shooting accuracy over the Lions. Both teams average about seven triples per contest.
Rebounding, defense and depth are where SAGU must drop their anchor. The Drovers yield just 69.3 ppg, though they are outboarded 38.4 to 35.5.
Their 17-9 mark is deceiving as six of their nine setbacks have come by 2, 6, 8, 10, 8, and 7 points.
(Team statistical comparisons are listed below)
An annual highlight of the NAIA tourney will take place following the second game, the Parade of Champions. All 32 teams will be individually introduced, filling the court with around 500 players and coaches.
SAGU students, fans and alumni have begun arriving in downtown and could provide a lift when the game tips-off at 9:00am.
A complete review of the game along with action photos will be posted here on Wednesday.
Should the Lions advance, they will play again on Friday at 9:00am.
Fans can follow the action via LiveStats, a digital version of the game at:
Video Livestream access:
For more information on the tourney, visit www.naia.org
Team Stat Comparison (number in parenthesis is national rank of 102 teams)
Scoring 77.9 (27) 71.5 (58)
Opponents Scoring 69.7 (42) 69.3 (38)
FG% .408 (93) .419 (79)
Opponents FG% .380 (5) .439 (65)
Three-Pointers Made Per Game 7.82 (17) 7.62 (22)
3’s FG% .301 (92) .357 (28)
Free Throw % .655 (78) .673 (52)
Rebounds Per Game 42.95 (5) 35.50 (67)
Offensive Reb. Per Gm 15.46 (4) 11.27 (60)
Opponents Reb. Per Gm 36.79 (66) 38.39 (79)
Turnovers Per Gm 17.12 11.50
Opponents TO’s Per Gm 19.03 14.39
Turnover Ratio +1.91 (31) +2.89 (21)
Steals Per Game 10.73 (9) 7.42 (61)
Blocked Shots Per Gm 3.39 (18) 2.39 (65)
Fouls Committed Per Gm 20.76 (10) 17.39 (70)
Stats are from the NAIA website