CU starts it up again

Irvine Scene

Concordia Eagles seeded No. 4 in upcoming NAIA tournament, and begins play Thursday against Oklahoma Christian.

March 10, 2012|By Joe Haakenson, Special to the Daily Pilot

The NCAA may have coined the phrase "March Madness," but it has nothing on the NAIA's version of a national basketball tournament.

Concordia University men's basketball team boarded a plan Sunday morning for Kansas City, Mo., where the NAIA will host the 32-team tournament. But while the NCAA Tournament lasts weeks, the NAIA's gathering will be finished in less only six days.

Concordia, which is seeded No. 4, will play in the first round against Oklahoma Christian on Thursday.

"I just love this tournament," said Concordia Coach Ken Ammann, who is taking his team to the tournament for the sixth year in a row and ninth time in the past 10 seasons. "I played and coached in [NCAA] Division I, and I've been a part of the NCAA Tournament. We won the NIT my senior year at Stanford. But this is the most fun tournament to be a part of. Thirty-two teams at one site. … It's a great tradition, it's a great set-up and it's great basketball."


This year is the 75th anniversary of the NAIA tournament, the longest running tournament in basketball. The first three days of the tournament feature games from 9 a.m. to midnight, all played at Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium.

Oklahoma Christian will pose a challenge to the Eagles, having just knocked off Oklahoma Baptist, the No. 2-ranked team in the country, in their conference tournament last week.

Meanwhile, Concordia is coming off a loss as well, losing to Biola in the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament final. It marked the third loss in three games to Biola this season.

Concordia won the GSAC's regular season championship despite being swept by Biola, which is seeded 10th in the tournament.

"We struggled against Biola," Ammann said. "That was the only problem losing to them the other night — we wanted to get them at least once. But other than that it was the perfect test for the tournament. They're a physical team, they play hard, they're well-coached, they're tough. It couldn't be a better prep team for the tournament to see if you're ready."

Ammann said his team has played well overall the past month, is peaking at the right time and is battle-tested. While last year's team was led by NAIA player of the year Justin Johnson, this year's team is more balanced — five players average double figures in scoring.

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