PIKEVILLE – The University of Pikeville has earned a No. 3 seed in the 2017 NAIA Div. I Men’s Basketball National Championship and will play sixth-seeded Grand View (Iowa) in the first round on Thursday, March 16 in Kansas City, Mo.
The Bears and Vikings will tip their first-round matchup at 10 a.m. ET in historical Municipal Auditorium, site of the last 15 national tournaments and 72 overall, dating back to 1937.
The game will be streamed live on a pay-per-view basis on NAIANetwork.com and can be heard on East Kentucky Broadcasting’s Z1075 FM on air or online.
With the No. 2 at-large bid to the tournament, UPIKE is making its fifth straight appearance, extending its program-record run that started in 2013. The Bears will be making their 11th trip overall with six of the bids coming under 11th-year head coach Kelly Wells.
Wells, who is Pikeville’s all time basketball wins leader (256-96), led the Bears to their first national title in 2011.
Earning a No. 3 seed for the first time in program history, Pikeville heads into the NAIA tournament following a 78-63 loss to Life (Ga.) in the finals of the Mid-South Conference Championship last Sunday. It was the sixth appearance in the MSC finals for the Bears.
UPIKE is currently 26-7 overall and finished tied for second in the MSC standings with a 9-5 mark in league play. The Bears are 4-6 in NAIA tournament openers and own an 11-9 record in the event overall. When it won the championship in 2011, Pikeville was unseeded, and had its second-best showing as a 14 seed in 2001 – proving it’s not always seeding that matters.
Grand View enters the tournament with two straight losses, but is 20-10 overall with an 18-8 mark in the Heart of American Athletic Conference. While the Vikings are just 2-4 in their last six games, they also have five wins against ranked teams this season. Most recently Grand View lost to Missouri Valley in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
The Vikings are making their first appearance in the NAIA National Championship after earning an automatic bid by finishing as the HAAC regular-season runner-up. Denis Schaefer is the longtime head coach at Grand View with this being his 19th season at the helm.
Schaefer’s team shoots a lot from outside with three players who have made 50 or more 3s. As a team, the Vikings hit at 35 percent from deep, led by Kerry Green with 58 3s at 36.7 percent. Grand View has four players averaging double figures scoring, including Chase Mullen (15.5), Jijuan Hadnot (15.4), Nate Washington (14.3) and Green (15.3).
With a win against Grand View, UPIKE would advance to Friday’s second round to face either No. 2-seed Columbia (Mo.) or No. 7-seed Lewis Clark State (Idaho) at 6:45 p.m. on Friday.
There are two ways to make it into the 32-team NAIA National Championship field. The automatic path is by winning one of 14 bids handed out to conference regular-season or tournament champions based on the size of the league. Conferences with 10 or more teams get two bids, the rest get one, including the MSC which is sending tournament champion Life.
The rest of the field is made up of 17 at-large selections, based off of national ratings, and one host-school berth.