Lions step into national spotlight
SAGU enjoys NAIA tournament and stage
Teams plays on Friday morning
KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- The 76th annual Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship got underway today in America’s Heartland. The 32-team, single elimination format takes place from March 13 - 19 at the Municipal Arena in Kansas City, Mo.
For just the second time in school history the Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team has qualified for the tourney.
The Lions were chosen to play in the event’s tipoff game against the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (USAO), which was played at 9:00am this morning.
Ranked sixth in the most recent Top 25 Coaches Poll, SAGU enjoyed a come-from-behind 62-58 victory over the Drovers to advance to Friday’s second round of games.
They will again play at 9:00am (CST) against Tennessee’s Martin Methodist College (21-10).
The RedHawks were 8-9 in mid-January before storming to a 12-1 finish, winning the TranSouth Athletic Conference with a 9-1 league record.
Winners of twelve straight, Martin lost in the TSAC tournament to Freed-Hardeman University (Tenn), 60-53.
Fans can watch the game on (pay-per-view) video livestream or view a (free) digital version of the game’s play-by-play by visiting www.naia.org for instructions.
Should the Lions win on Friday, they would move to the quarterfinals on Saturday at 2:00pm.
The Fab Four includes semi-finals on ESPN3 on Monday at 6:00pm, with the finals on CBS on Tuesday, March 19, at 7:30pm.
The NAIA, who promotes the strength of personal character in its members called the Champions of Character, introduced all 32 teams in a noon ceremony known as the Parade of Champions.
An estimated 450 players and the coaching staffs of all participating teams filed onto the playing surface.
SAGU’s 15-player roster, three-man coaching staff and the tournament’s lone team chaplain were among the nation’s best college athletes and leaders.
Head Coach Donnie Bostwick, a native of Pryor Creek, Oklahoma (northeast of Tulsa), has led the Lions from a 10-22 team the year prior to his arrival to 27-11 last season.
The team appeared in the NAIA Top 25 for the first time in years while having the largest turnaround in all of college basketball in the USA.
This season saw the Purple & Gold begin the year at no. 26 in the Pre-Season Poll. Following a 7-1 start SAGU moved up to no. 20 and remained among the nation’s elite the entirety of the season.
A focused squad on the road, the Jungle Kings reeled off wins in their first 14 games away from Waxahachie. They lost the regular season finale at no. 21 LSU-Shreveport (25-6).
Inside the friendly confines of the Sheaffer Center, the Lions had a 14-3 mark, falling only to three nationally ranked teams in no. 5 Westmont College (25-8) (in overtime), LSU-Shreveport and the University of St. Thomas (28-5) in the Red River Athletic Conference tournament finals.
All of the team's setbacks were to teams who are in Kansas City this week for the national tourney.
The rise in the basketball program, currently 57-15 in the last two seasons (.792 winning percentage), will begin a new era next season. SAGU changes its address to the Sooner Athletic Conference in the fall.
Considered one of the finest and most competitive leagues in the NAIA, the Sooner placed four of its nine teams in the men’s national tournament. The league has teams from Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas.
The Lions 2013 rosters has four freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors and just two seniors, meaning most of the current team should return.
A strong core of student-athletes are coming back. Joined by a new recruiting class, and, combined with God’s blessing, the Lions’ season in the sun should not be a short one.
Photos of SAGU in the Parade of Champions were taken by Nicholas Robinson of the John Brown University (Ark) Sports Information Office.