SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The Indiana University South Bend men’s basketball team opens up play in the 2020-21 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship Opening Round, Presented by Ballogy Friday night, March 12 against Rio Grande (Ohio) in Marion, Ind.
Tipoff of the Marion Bracket B first-round tilt is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST inside Luckey Arena.
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IU South Bend punched its second-straight ticket to the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship via the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference automatic bid with a 76-75 thrilling victory in the league’s title game at top-seeded Olivet Nazarene, March 1.
The Titans, which were the No. 15 seed in the conference tournament and were tabbed as the two-seed in the Marion Bracket B, enter the postseason with a 6-0 overall record and persevered through numerous obstacles this season to earn their second national tournament trip. IUSB was forced to shut down due to COVID-19 concerns from late November to early February after winning two games back on Nov. 24 & 29. The Titans were allowed to begin practicing again on Feb. 9 which allowed them to start competition on the first day of the CCAC Tournament Championship.
The RedStorm own a 16-9 overall record and advanced to the tournament for the first time since 2003 as the River States Conference Tournament runner-up after falling to West Virginia University-Tech, 75-60, in the title game.
DEJA VU: IU South Bend earned its second consecutive CCAC Championship after another thrilling come-from-behind victory over Olivet Nazarene. This time it was senior Sergio Diaz who sank the game-winning three-pointer after the Titans trailed by as many as four with 24 seconds remaining in regulation.
CCAC ON THE NATIONAL STAGE: The Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference garnered three teams in this year’s NAIA Tournament. IUSB in its second appearance joins Olivet Nazarene and Holy Cross. Cardinal Stritch is the lone CCAC team to have won a NAIA Division II national title that occurred on March 13, 2013 when the Wolves cruised past top-seeded William Penn 73-59 in Point Lookout, Mo.
ROAD WARRIORS: As the 15th seed in the conference tournament, IU South Bend was forced to play all of its post-season games in unfamiliar territory. In four games, the Titans travelled a combined 872 total miles to garner the championship title. Friday’s contest marks IUSB’s sixth game on the road this season as they prepare to travel 118 miles to Indiana Wesleyan.
WINNING STREAK: IUSB enters Friday’s contest having won 14 straight games, dating back to Feb. 5, 2020 when the Titans defeated Roosevelt in Chicago, Ill. by a score of 70-67.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Friday’s opening round clash between IU South Bend and Rio Grande will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
TIE BREAKER: The matchup will be the 11th time under eighth year head coach Scott Cooper that the Titans face a RSC opponent. The series is even at 5-5 and Friday’s game will tilt the series one way or the other.
SCOUTING REPORT-URG: The RedStorm enter the postseason with a 16-9 overall record after falling in the RSC championship game and are led by first-year head coach and RSC Coach of the Year Ryan Arrowood. Sophomore Shiloa Blevins, the conference player of the year, leads the RedStorm this season averaging 17.2 points per game, 6.7 rebounds and his 37 blocks this year ranks him 15th amongst all NAIA players. Sophomore counterpart and conference newcomer of the year Miki Tadi scores a team-best 17.4 points.
As a team, Rio Grande outscores its opponents this season 75.1-71.0 through 24 games. Overall, the Redstorm hold a field goal percentage of 45.6, shooting 35.8 from beyond the arc and 78.2 from the free throw line. UGR holds a slight advantage over its opponents this season, outrebounding by a margin of +0.2 per game.
ON THE HORIZON: Friday’s winner advances to the bracket championship on Saturday, March 13 to meet top-seeded Indiana Wesleyan at 7 p.m. The top-ranked Wildcats (29-2) won the Crossroads league championship but saw its 12-game winning streak snapped in a 106-79 loss to Saint Francis (Ind.) in the semifinal round of the conference tournament.