PIKEVILLE – Eighth-seeded Pikeville will meet the regular-season runner-up from the Red River Athletics Conference in what is sure to be the fastest-paced game in the opening round of the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship.
The Bears will meet unseeded LSU-Shreveport on Wednesday night at 9:45 p.m. EDT in Kansas City’s historic Memorial Coliseum. The Pilots lead the country with an average of 92.53 points per game while the Bears are third in that column, tossing in 89.59 points per outing.
While the Bears allow only 71.38 points per game, the Pilots give up 80.47 markers per contest.
The Pilots received the 15th of 17 at-large bids into the field and will be making their ninth appearance all-time. They will enter the event ranked 25th in the most recent poll and with a record of 24-6.
UPike is 26-6 overall and received an automatic bid into the event by playing in the Mid-South Conference championship game. Like their seeding, the Bears were ranked No. 8 in the poll which was released earlier on Wednesday.
The Bears will be playing in the event for the seventh time and are 8-5 all-time. Thanks to their 2011 national championship, they have won five straight games in the tournament.
LSU-Shreveport was the two-seed in the Red River tournament but lost in the semifinals to the University of St. Thomas 69-63. St. Thomas then beat top-seeded Southwestern Assemblies 67-51 to win the tournament.
The Pilots have won 12 of their last 15 games and had two players on the first-team all-conference team. They are led by Rodney Milum, a 6-0 senior guard from Houston who averaged 22.8 points per game while hitting 124 of his team’s 268 three-point shots this season. He also led the team by nailing 86.0 percent of his free throws while also pacing them in makes (160) and attempts (186).
Milum, a transfer from Appalachian State University, leads the country in both made three-point shots and makes per game, averaging 4.1. His point total is second in the country while his free-throw percentage is eighth.
Brandon Davis is a 6-3 junior forward from Pomona, Calif., who was named Red River Newcomer of the Year. Since joining the team at midseason, Davis is averaging 21.8 points and 12.4 rebounds per contest.
A transfer from San Jacinto Junior College, he has 15 double-doubles in 20 outings and is the owner of the only triple-double in the conference this season.
Mark Politte, a 6-2 junior from Houston, was second-team all-league and enters the tournament averaging 13.5 points and 4.1 assists per game. Rydell Harris is a 6-5 senior from Monroe, La., who transferred from Grambling State University. He was named honorable-mention all-conference after averaging 10.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Of his 243 rebounds, 101 came off the offensive glass.
The winner will advance to Friday’s 5:30 p.m. EDT contest where it will meet the winner of the game between No. 9 Evangel, Mo., (25-6) and Montana State-Northern (23-9).
The national championship game is slated for Tuesday, March 19 at 8:30 p.m. EDT.