Pioneers going to Glendale, face 25-2 Antelope Valley
LUBBOCK, TX (NEWS RELEASE) - The Wayland Baptist Pioneers will face the University of Antelope Valley (Calif.) Pioneers in Glendale, Ariz., next week in the Opening Round of the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championships.
Sooner Athletic Conference runner-up Wayland (23-8), ranked the equivalent of 27th in the NAIA, is seeded ninth in its 16-team quadrant while 20th-ranked Antelope Valley (25-2) is the No. 8 seed. Antelope Valley qualified for nationals after winning the Cal Pac regular-season title with a 19-1 record. UAV then lost in the first round of the Cal Pac Tournament to California-Merced, snapping a 14-game winning streak.
UAV’s only other loss this season (besides exhibition setbacks to CSU Bakersfield, Biola and Utah Valley) was in conference play to the University of St. Katherine (Calif.), 72-64 on Dec. 29.
Tip-off between the two Pioneer teams in Glendale is 7 p.m. Central on Tuesday. It will be the first-ever meeting between the schools.
Wayland will be making its seventh trip to nationals over the past decade, but first since 2020 when the tourney was cancelled due to COVID. The Pioneers have advanced past the first round just once in their last six appearances, making it three rounds deep in 2018.
WBU ranks seventh in the NAIA in points per game, averaging 87 a contest, while Antelope Valley gets 84.3 to come in at 19th. UAV holds opponents to 40 percent shooting from the field, which ranks ninth in the country, while opponents shooting 28 percent from 3-point range, which ranks third.
UAV is led in scoring by a trio of guards in senior Andrew Lewis (15.9 ppg), junior Michael Hayes (14.7) and senior Elias Ezenekew (14.1). Another senior guard, LeVontay Ott, chips in 9.4 ppg. The 6-foot-4 Hayes leads the team in rebounding at 7.1 per outing.
WBU’s Pioneers won 13 of their last 14 games before falling in the SAC Tournament championship to No. 5 Langston, 80-68.
The WBU-UAV winner advance to the Opening Round championship at 6:30 Central Wednesday against either host Arizona Christian, ranked No. 2 in the NAIA and the top seed in the quadrant, or 16th-seeded Corban (Ore.). The ACU Firestorm, winner of the Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season, are 24-5 overall while Corban, an at-large selection out of the Cascade Collegiate Conference, is 20-10.
The Opening Round winner moves on to the final site in Kansas City, Mo., along with 15 other Opening Round winners. Those 16 teams will battle it out in Municipal Auditorium March 13-18.
Besides Wayland, two other SAC team made the 64-team field: Langston, which is hosting an Opening Round, and Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
The field consists of 37 automatic qualifiers – given to conference regular season champions, regular season runners-up, tournament champions, or tournament runners-up, depending on the league. The number of teams in each league determines the number of automatic bids in each conference. Leagues with 10 or more schools received two automatic berths, while conferences with less than 10 institutions received one.
At-large teams were determined by the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Selection Committee (NSC). The NSC consists of one representative from each geographic area, a representative from the National Administrative Council, the president of the NAIA-Men’s Basketball Coaches Association and three at-large members. The committee evaluated teams throughout the year on various criteria.
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