By Chad Waller, NAIA Director of Sports Information & Media Services
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Bracket - PDF) The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially released the bracket for the 75th Annual Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The single-elimination tournament takes place from March 14 - 20 in Kansas City, Mo., and historic Municipal Auditorium. The event tips off at 9 a.m. CST on March 14 as No. 9 Rogers State (Okla.) faces Tougaloo (Miss.).
Coined College Basketball's Toughest Tournament, the event will be hosted in the City of Fountains for the 11th-straight year and 68th time overall. Tickets can be purchased by calling 816.595.8000 or clicking here.
There are eight games scheduled each of the first three days, with the quarterfinals set for March 17. The semifinals will play out at 6 and 8 p.m. on March 18 and the Championship final will be televised live nationally on CBS Sports Network on March 20 at 7 p.m.
NeuLion is the NAIA's Digital Media Partner and official video-streaming company of 10 select NAIA National Championship events. The first 30 matches from Kansas City, Mo., will be available via live video stream for $29.95 and any single day can be purchased for $9.95. Also, one can purchase the all-tournament package of all four basketball tournaments for $49.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.
The field is comprised of 17 automatic berths, host berth Baker (Kan.) and 14 at-large selections, which were determined using the final Coaches' Top 25 Poll released today.
No. 1 seeded Shorter (Ga.) is scheduled to take on Life (Ga.) at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday. The Hawks own an NAIA-best 31-2 record and are appearing in their first national championship. Life, who is 22-9 in 12 previous trips, owns the most titles among this year's field with three. The Running Eagles are trying to snap a four-game losing skid in the postseason.
The all-time record holder in championship wins (54), Oklahoma Baptist earned the No. 2 seed. The Bison have won two national championships (1966, 2010). They will take to the court on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. against Belhaven (Miss.). The Blazers were the runner-up in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) tournament and are making their third overall trip.
No. 14 Georgetown (Ky.) is making its tournament-record 21st-straight appearance and 30th overall. The Tigers, who own a 52-29 postseason mark, tangle with Lee (Tenn.) on Thursday at 8 p.m.
Overall, there are 15 schools that are making their 10th-or-higher appearance. In addition, Cumberlands (Ky.) (20 trips) joins Oklahoma Baptist and Georgetown as the three schools with 20-plus trips.
No. 7 Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) is the second newcomer to the field and will run into Baker on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. The Saints were the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament runner-up and have won six of their last seven contests on the year. Baker, who is playing in its first Division I championship since 1941, is searching for its first postseason victory.
Another team snapping a long drought is Southern-New Orleans (La.). The Knights won the Gulf Coast Athletic Tournament championship and last played in Kansas City in 2004. They are scheduled to play No. 3 Robert Morris (Ill.) on Thursday at 9:45 p.m.
A notable team not making the return trip is defending national champion Pikeville (Ky.).
The Sooner Athletic Conference boasts the most qualifiers this year of any conference or unaffiliated group with five programs: John Brown (Ark.), Oklahoma Baptist, Oklahoma Christian, Rogers State (Okla.) and Southern Nazarene (Okla.). The Mid-South Conference and SSAC each send a quartet of qualifiers to Kansas City.