POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- In its first national tournament game since 1996, 12th-ranked Mount Mercy will face 21st-ranked St. Thomas (Fla.) in the first round of the 22nd Annual NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship on Thursday at 5:45 p.m. at Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks (Mo.).
The Mustangs (27-5) were runners-up in the Midwest Collegiate Conference during the regular season as well as the MCC Tournament. They're making their second national tournament appearance after receiving the third of 12 at-large berths in the tournament. Three of Mount Mercy's five losses were to top-ranked William Penn. The 27 victories by Mount Mercy are second only to the 1995-96 team that went 29-6 and reached the second round of the national tournament.
St. Thomas (20-11) is making its second straight national tournament appearance and fifth overall. The Bobcats, one of three teams from the Sun Conference to earn a trip to nationals, grabbed the seventh of 12 at-large bids after losing to Northwood (Fla.) in the semifinals of the Sun Conference Tournament in West Palm Beach, Fla. St. Thomas tied for third in the league in the regular season. Third-seeded Northwood (30-3) and 16th-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.) (25-8) will also represent the Sun Conference at the national championship.
The tournament kicks off with eight games on Wednesday and then eight more on Thursday. Play gets underway at 8:30 a.m. each day. Thursday's schedule is capped off by fifth-seeded Warner Pacific (Ore.) (27-6) against Dakota State (S.D.) (22-9) at 9:15 p.m. Mount Mercy will face the winner of that contest if they're able to get past St. Thomas. The other two games in Mount Mercy's section of the bracket feature 13th-seeded Tennessee Wesleyan (25-7) against Grace (Ind.) (21-9) and fourth-seeded Northwestern (24-6) versus Cal Maritime (24-6).
William Penn (30-1), the MCC regular season and tournament champion, is the top seed overall and faces McPherson (Kan.) (15-17) on Wednesday at 1:45 p.m. Second round action takes place on Friday, followed by quarterfinal match ups on Saturday. The semifinals are on Monday and the NAIA Division II championship game on Tuesday.
Free live stats will be available for all games. NeuLion, the digital partner of the NAIA, will broadcast the first 30 games from Point Lookout, Mo. An all-tournament pass (30 games) is available for $29.95, while a single day pass can be purchased for $9.95. The NAIA Division II championship game will be carried live by CBS Sports Network on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Click here for complete coverage of the national tournament, including links to live stats, video and results.