Undefeated LSU Alexandria, in just its third season as a NAIA Division I basketball program, will be the top seed in the 80th annual NAIA Men’s Basketball Tournament next week at Municipal Auditorium.
The Generals (31-0) will meet Science & Arts of Oklahoma (19-13) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
The 32-team, six-day tournament tips off at 9 a.m. Wednesday with Life (Ga). University facing Martin Methodist (Tenn.), both 22-10.
Two Kansas City-area schools, Benedictine College of the Heart of America Conference and Park University of the American Midwest Conference, qualified for the field that was announced on Wednesday night. Two other Missouri schools in the field are Columbia College, which will make its seventh straight appearance, and Harris-Stowe of St. Louis, which qualified for the first time.
Benedictine (21-10), which returns to the tournament after a one-year absence and is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Ravens’ 1967 national championship, will face 26-4 The Masters (Calif.) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Park, a hard-luck loser to eventual champion Mid-America Christian (Okla.) in the first round last year, will face the 2016 runner-up, Georgetown (Ky.) College (23-7) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
LSU Alexandria is the first team to enter the tournament unbeaten since Columbia College brought a 33-0 mark to the 2013 tournament but lost in the quarterfinals. Only two schools have won NAIA titles as unbeaten teams, Central State (Ohio) in 1965 and Oklahoma City in 1992. And no top seed has won the tournament since Mountain State (W.Va.) did so in 2002.
LSUA, champion of the Red River Athletic Conference, won 11 games against ranked opponents this season. They feature a big front line of 6-10 center Gilbert Talbot, 6-8 Brian Sylvester and 6-9 Brandon Moss.
Instead of day-night sessions for the six-day tournament, the NAIA has instituted all-day tickets this year. An all-day ticket allows a fan to watch any or all eight games for $25 (reserved seat) or $15 (general admission) on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday or for all four quarterfinals on Saturday.
The semifinals are set for 6 and 8 p.m. Monday, March 20 and championship game will tip off at 7 p.m. on March 21.
A tournament pass, good for all 31 games, costs $100, and for the first time, VIP courtside tickets for all 31 games will be available at $45 per day or $300 for the tournament, which includes lunch and dinner. Children 5 and under are free every day, and student prices run from $5 to $10.