Five story lines
By RANDY COVITZ
The Kansas City Star
• Going against the Big 12: Due to a quirk in the calendar, this is the first time since the NAIA Tournament returned to Kansas City in 2002 that it is going head-to-head against the Big 12 Tournament. The NAIA is hopeful some of the fans in town for games at the Sprint Center drop by Municipal Auditorium this weekend. Especially those from Oklahoma, who might want to check out former NAIA champions Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Baptist. One thing is for certain. Downtown parking will be at a premium, especially on Thursday and Friday.
• Running the table: Top-seeded Columbia College, which has been the No. 1 team in the nation for eight straight weeks, will bring a gaudy 33-0 record to Kansas City and is the first undefeated team in the tournament since Georgetown (Ky.) went 34-0 before losing in the 2008 semifinals. Only two NAIA teams have finished unbeaten Central State (Ohio) in 1965 and Oklahoma City in 1992 and Columbia will face Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.
• Heavy hearts: Defending tournament champion Concordia (Calif.) University has dedicated the season to former Eagles guard Keith Lawrence, who was shot to death along with his fiancée, former Concordia womens player Monica Quan, as part of the rampage by former Los Angeles policeman Christopher Dorner in February. Lawrence made an improbable, buzzer-beating three-pointer that sent a 2007 semifinal into a fourth overtime. Concordia won the game in four overtimes but lost in the championship game.
• Welcome back: Pikeville (Ky.) College, which pulled a string of upsets along the way to winning the 2011 championship, returns after a one-year absence. In 2011, unseeded Pikeville knocked off five top-10 seeded teams, including defending champion Oklahoma Baptist; top-seeded Robert Morris; and third-seeded Mountain State in overtime for the championship.
• In with the new, out with the old: Five programs Philander Smith (Ark.), St. Thomas-Houston, Cal State San Marcos, Hope (Calif.) and Arizona Christian are among the schools making their first NAIA Tournament appearances. Part of the reason is some of the old standbys such as Biola (Calif.) and Robert Morris (Ill.) failed to qualify this year, and another perennial team and former champion, Mountain State (W.Va), which had appeared in the last 14 tournaments, closed its doors in January.
Five players to watch
• G Trevor Setty, Pikeville (Ky.): Setty, the mop-haired, 6-foot-8 do-everything guard/forward, was the tournaments MVP as a sophomore in 2011, when he sparked the unseeded Bears to the title, capped by a 32-point, 17-rebound performance in the championship game. Setty is averaging 18.8 points per game.
• F Vic Moses, Georgetown (Ky.): Moses, a 6-6, 255-pound senior, led the Tigers to the semifinals of the 2011 tournament when he was a second-team all-American, but he missed all of last year because of a torn Achilles. A bull inside the paint, Moses averages 17.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game and leads the nation in field-goal percentage, having made 202 of 293 shots, or 69 percent. He has 13 double-doubles, which ranks tied for seventh.
• G Rodney Milum, LSU Shreveport: Milum, a 6-foot transfer from Appalachian State, ranks second in the nation in scoring with a 22.8 average, including an NAIA-leading 4.3 three-pointers per game. Of his 200 made field goals, 124 are three-pointers. Milum scored a school-record 53 points against Paul Quinn College earlier this season.
• G Dominique Rambo, SAGU: Youve got to love the name, and Rambo, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, does it all for SAGU: Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. Rambo leads the NAIA in steals, averaging 3.59 per game and ranks 13th in scoring with a 19.7 average, including a career-best 43-point performance in the Lions semifinal win in the Red River Athletic Conference tournament.
• F Jordan Dressler, Columbia: Dressler, a 6-8 senior who began his college career at Toledo, is a two-time American Midwest Conference player of the year and is a force in the paint for the undefeated Cougars. Dressler, son of former Missouri player Mark Dressler, averages 13.0 points and 7.1 rebounds and ranks second in the country in field-goal percentage (63 percent).
• Pikeville (Ky.): The Bears look loaded. Setty needs 11 points to move to eighth on the schools career scoring list, and when he gets on a three-point shooting roll, hes tough to stop. Hes been aided by guard Jamar Briscoe, a transfer from Charlotte, who was the Atlantic 10 Newcomer of the Year two years ago and scored more than 1,000 points in NCAA Division I before coming to Pikeville, where he was the Mid-South Conference player of the year.
• Lindsey Wilson (Ky.): If Pikeville doesnt win it, second-seeded Lindsey Wilson, a fellow Mid-South Conference member, just might. This is the highest seed for Lindsey Wilson since the Raiders were No. 3 in both 2004 and 2005. They reached the quarterfinals in 2004 but lost in the first round in 2005, showing just how unpredictable this tournament can be.
• Oklahoma Baptist: The Bison are still smarting from last years championship game, when they jumped out to a 16-1 lead but lost 72-69 to Concordia. Coach Doug Tolin knows how to navigate his team through the grueling tournament. OBU won it all in 2010, and he guided the Bison to a second-place finish in 2002 and to the semifinals in 2006.
• Cal State San Marcos: The basketball program is in just its second season, but it is off to an impressive start. The Cougars went 19-12 last year, including wins over perennial NAIA powers Mountain State and Robert Morris. This season, with eight NCAA Division I transfers, the Cougars went 23-6, again beating Mountain State and Robert Morris and sweeping No. 5-ranked Westmont (Calif.).
• SAGU: Southwestern Assemblies of God University, formerly known as Southwestern (Texas) returns for the first time since 2006 with an exciting team led by guard Dominique Rambo, who leads the nation in steals and averaged 25.0 points in three conference tournament games. Forwards Jon Walter and Mike Nwelue provide plenty of firepower.
• Life (Ga.): Every year, it seems, some unseeded team makes a splash and Life just could be the team that crashes the party this year. The Running Eagles (how does an Eagle run, by the way?) won back-to-back titles in 1999-2000 when the tournament was temporarily played in Tulsa, but theyve been knocked out in the first round in each of the past four years in Kansas City.
The 32-team field
• Location: Phoenix
• Record: 20-9
• Top players: G Talib Uqdah, 20.9 PPG; F Jordan Block, 15.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG
• Fun fact: The Firestorm was coached by former NBA star and coach Paul Westphal in the late 1980s.
Cal State San Marcos
• Location: San Marcos, Calif.
• Record: 23-6
• Top players: G A.J. Gasporra, 16.8 PPG, 4.8 APG; F Ali Lansford, 15.0 PPG
• Fun fact: Coach Jim Saia spent 2004-05 season as interim head coach at the University of Southern California after Henry Bibby was dismissed four games into the season, and was on the UCLA staff during 1996-2003.
• Location: Columbia
• Record: 33-0
• Top players: F Jordan Dressler, 13.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG; G Devin Griffin, 13.2, 3.8 APG
• Fun fact: G Derrick Dilworth started at quarterback for the Webster Groves High School team that won a Missouri state football championship and started at guard for the schools state championship basketball team in the same academic year.
• Location: Irvine, Calif.
• Record: 22-10
• Top players: G Tim Harris, 16.9 PPG; F Dakota Downs, 16.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG
• Fun fact: F Peter Smith is the son of former NBA All-Star Phil Smith, who helped the Golden State Warriors win the 1975 NBA championship.
• Location: Canton, Mo.
• Record: 24-8
• Top players: G Marshawn Norris, 17.7 PPG, 6.8 APG; G Austin Keaton, 15.4 PPG; F James Johnson, 15.3 PPG
• Fun fact: The Wildcats are making their first appearance in the tournament since 1959.
• Location: Franklin Springs, Ga.
• Record: 28-4
• Top players: F Adrian Justice, 14.8 PPG; G Michael Stanley, 11.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG
• Fun fact: The Lions rank fourth in the NAIA in scoring defense, allowing just 60.9 points per game.
• Location: Springfield
• Record: 25-6
• Top players: F Zack Kleine, 12.3 PPG; G Victor Agbasi, 11.2; F Stephen Cotten, 10.7, 6.5 RPG
• Fun fact: The Crusaders won the Heart of America Athletic Conference regular-season and postseason tournament championships.
• Location: Montgomery, Ala.
• Record: 28-5
• Top players: F Cyrille Sandjon, 10.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG; G Jamarious Alderson, 10.1 PPG
• Fun fact: Coach Jim Sanderson is the son of former Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson.
• Location: Georgetown, Ky.
• Record: 23-8
• Top players: F Vic Moses, 17 PPG, 9.1 RPG; G Monty Wilson, 15.9 PPG; G Allan Thomas, 14.1 PPG
• Fun fact: Georgetown will continue its record streak by making its 22nd consecutive appearance in the NAIA Tournament.
• Location: Fullerton, Calif.
• Record: 25-7
• Top players: F Orlando Collins, 12.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG; G Jeremy Kilgore, 14.9 PPG; G Kris Rosales, 13.3 PPG, 4.3 APG
• Fun fact: Collins ranks 10th in the nation with 10 double-doubles.
John Brown University
• Location: Siloam Springs, Ark.
• Record: 27-6
• Top players: G Coleson Rakestraw, 11.0 PPG; G Kofi Josephs, 10.3; F DShon Taylor, 10.0 PPG; 5.5 RPG
• Fun fact: Josephs is from Birmingham, England; Taylor from Nassau, Bahamas.
• Location: Cleveland, Tenn.
• Record: 29-3
• Top players: G Will Barnes, 20.4 PPG, F Jamorris Gaines, 14.9 PPG
• Fun fact: Steve Bennett is a 29-year-old senior who stands 6 feet 10 and 300 pounds. He plays just 19 minutes per game but averages 10.2 PPG and 8.9 RPG.
• Location: Lewiston, Idaho
• Record: 26-5
• Top players: F P.J. Bolte, 17.1 PPG; 5.9 RPG; G Jacob Champoux, 12.5 PPG
• Fun fact: Champoux has made 50 of 92 three-point shots, a 54.3 percentage.
• Location: Marietta, Ga.
• Record: 19-12
• Top players: G Bobby Smith, 16.2 PPG, 2.8 steals; G Greg Thomas, 16.1 PPG
• Fun fact: The Running Eagles rank first in the NAIA in steals with 13.1 per game.
Lindsey Wilson College
• Location: Columbia, Ky.
• Record: 29-4
• Top players: G Kalen Kimberland, 12.8 PPG, 3.9 APG; F DeAntra Scott, 12.1 PPG; 5.4 RPG
• Fun fact: Danny Clauag, a student at Lindsey Wilson, competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London in BMX racing.
• Location: Shreveport, La.
• Record: 24-6
• Top players: G Rodney Milum, 22.8 PPG; F Brandon Davis, 10.8 PPG, 12.4 RPG
• Fun fact: The Pirates ranked first in the NAIA in scoring, averaging 92.5 points per game.
• Location: Pulaski, Tenn.
• Record: 20-10
• Top players: F Josh Watson, 12.1 PPG; F Jeremy Rodgers, 12.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG
• Fun fact: Former RedHawk G James Justice won the slam-dunk contest at the 2012 Final Four in New Orleans.
• Location: Olathe
• Record: 24-9
• Top players: G Rustin Dowd, 16.0 PPG; F Luke Thomas, 14.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG
• Fun fact: Backup guard Jason Garretson is the son of NBA referee Ron Garretson and grandson of former NBA referee Darrell Garretson.
• Location: Havre, Mont.
• Record: 23-9
• Top players: G Devin Jackson, 13.6; F Jesse Vaughn, 10.8
• Fun fact: The Northern Lights rank sixth in the NAIA with 8.5 three-pointers made per game.
• Location: Dillon, Mont.
• Record: 22-9
• Top players: C Jake Owsley, 12.5 PPG; 8.3 RPG, 1.65 BPG
• Fun fact: Owsleys 1.65 blocked shots per game rank fifth in the NAIA.
• Location: Shawnee, Okla.
• Record: 24-7
• Top players: Chase Adams, 14.6; G David Johnson, 13.1 PPG, G Kameron Price, 11.5
• Fun fact: OBU has won 58 NAIA Tournament games, the most of any school.
Oklahoma City University
• Location: Oklahoma City
• Record: 17-10
• Top players: G Terry Johnson, 15.1 PPG; G Charlton Jones, 14.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.0 APG
• Fun fact: The Stars six NAIA championships are the most by any school.
Philander Smith College
• Location: Little Rock, Ark.
• Record: 25-7
• Top players: F Alvin Nance, 20.0 PPG; F Egbe Jaron, 7.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG
• Fun fact: Nance leads the nation in free-throw percentage at 94 percent.
University of Pikeville
• Location: Pikeville, Ky.
• Record: 26-6
• Top players: Jamar Briscoe, 22.5 PPG; Trevor Setty, 18.8
• Fun fact: Pikevilles outgoing president is Paul E. Patton, a former two-time governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Rocky Mountain College
• Location: Billings, Mont.
• Record: 21-12
• Top players: F Jeremy Nicolas, 15.1 PPG; F Joel Barndt, 14.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG
• Fun fact: Rocky Mountain won the 2009 NAIA Tournament as an unseeded team.
Southwest Assemblies of God University
• Location: Waxahachie, Texas
• Record: 29-4
• Top players: G Dominique Rambo, 19.5 PPG, 3.6 steals; F Mike Nwelue, 10.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG
• Fun fact: Rambo leads the nation in steals with 3.6 per game.
University of St. Thomas
• Location: Houston
• Record: 28-5
• Top players: G Travis Lampley, 12.9 PPG; F Bryan Kaase, 13.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG
• Fun fact: Lampley leads the NAIA in assists, 9.71 and was the MVP of the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament.
University of Science & Arts
• Location: Chickasha, Okla.
• Record: 17-9
• Top player: G Norris Rumph, 15.9 PPG
• Fun fact: The Drovers won the NAIA Tournament in 2002, the first year the event returned to KC from a hiatus in Tulsa, Okla.
• Location: Denmark, S.C.
• Record: 22-11
• Top players: F Brandon Allen, 15.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG; G Sam Dotson, 12.6 PPG
• Fun fact: Voorhees, a historically black college, was founded in 1897 by 23-year-old Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, who was inspired by the Tuskegee Institute, where she had studied previously.
• Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
• Record: 25-7
• Top players: G Preston Branson, 15.7 PPG; F Jordan Sachs, 10.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG
• Fun fact: John Moore was voted Golden State Athletic Conference coach of the year.
William Carey University
• Location: Hattiesburg, Miss.
• Record: 25-5
• Top players: G Jeremiah Dunnings, 17.3 PPG; G Daron Bell, 15.8 PPG
• Fun fact: Jamal Doss leads the NAIA in blocked shots, 3.58 per game.
• Location: New Orleans
• Record: 24-7
• Top players: G Wanto Joseph, 16.2 PPG, 6.1 APG; F Denzell Erves, 13.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG
• Fun fact: Of the 24 seniors who have played for coach Dannton Jackson, 23 have graduated or are still enrolled.
To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/randycovitz.