Pilots draw NAIA perennial power, Azusa Pacific
March 08, 2007
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has released the 32-team bracket for the 70th Annual Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. Round I will feature the No. 23 LSUS Pilots (25-7) against the Azusa Pacific University Cougars (27-6) in what could arguably be the most intriguing match-up of Day 1 in Kansas City, MO. The two teams will square off Wednesday (March 14) at 4:30pm in the Municipal Auditorium.
The Cougars will be making their 12th straight NAIA National Tournament appearance under Head Coach Bill Odell, who is college basketball’s winningest coach over the past 16 years. APU captured an automatic bid to KC after winning their second straight Golden States Athletic Conference Tournament with an 80-72 victory over Concordia University.
The Cougars finished 3rd in the GSAC regular season standings with a 14-6 record, but proved that they are the class of the GSAC by defeating three national tournament qualifiers (Westmont, San Diego Christian, and Concordia) en route to the GSAC Tournament Title.
In 2005, APU lost in the National Championship game to John Brown University; the same JBU who defeated the Pilots in the Sweet 16. In 2006, the Cougars were eliminated in the Elite 8 by Robert Morris College.
As for the Pilots, they are heading to KC for the third consecutive season; a modest feat in comparison to APU’s tenure which is the second longest streak behind Georgetown’s 15th straight appearance.
However, it is the Pilots third trip in just four years of competition under Head Coach Chad McDowell. In 2005, the Pilots visited the Sweet 16 before bowing out to the 2005 National Champion JBU. LSUS earned the No. 2 seed in the 2006 tournament, but made an early exit after being upset by Southern Polytechnic University in the first-round.
The Pilots road to KC was along the same route as APU. LSUS finished 3rd in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular season, but posted convincing wins over Xavier University and the University of Mobile en route to their second straight GCAC Tournament Championship.
LSUS enters the field of 32 sporting a humble four game win streak, and are winners of nine of their last ten contests. Coach McDowell knows his Pilots are up against a formidable opponent in the Cougars, but feels as though his third trip to KC may be the most promising.
“I know it is a coaching cliché, but we truly are playing our best basketball of the season. Our focus the last month was taking care of business in conference play so we could make it to the tournament. In doing so, we have really come together and are not just winning games, we are playing “team orientated” basketball,” commented McDowell.
LSUS has compiled a 3-2 record against tournament bound teams which includes wins over Wiley College and Xavier University, and two conference losses to GCAC Regular Season Champions, Tougaloo College.
The GSAC has perennially been one of the strongest conferences in the NAIA and have posted a conference record five teams in KC. APU is 8-5 against tournament qualifiers.
The first 30 games of the tournament will be video streamed live on the Internet, while the Semifinals and National Championship Game will air live nationwide on College Sports Television (CSTV), with Jonathan Coachman calling the action and collegiate coaching legend Pete Gillen providing in-depth analysis.