The Dillard Bleu Devils are ecstatic about being in the NAIA basketball tournament, which begins March 16 in Kansas City, Missouri. However, coach Mike Newell is not happy about his team’s ranking, or lack thereof, which he said he feels affected its seeding.
Dillard (21-11) was ranked No. 25 in the previous NAIA poll on March 1 before winning the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference tournament championship and an automatic bid Sunday. However, in the poll that came out along with the seedings and pairings for the NAIA tournament, the Bleu Devils were out of the Top 25.
“There were four teams ahead of us that lost in the first round of their tournaments,” said Newell, who led the Bleu Devils to the tournament for the first time since 2003. “I figured we’d be anywhere from 15th to 19th in the poll, which would put us about fourth in our seeding.”
Dillard is a sixth seed and will play third-seeded Hope (California) College on Wednesday.
The Bleu Devils are among four New Orleans schools in the tournament. Xavier, which lost to Dillard in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship game, is the eighth and final seed in the Cramer bracket. The Gold Rush (21-12) will play No. 1 seed Lewis & Clark State in the tournament’s first game at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“I don’t think our conference was treated fairly,” said Xavier coach Dannton Jackson, who represents the GCAC in the NAIA. “But the positive is two New Orleans (men’s) teams are in the tournament.”
On the women’s side, Loyola (23-7), which won the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament, is seeded sixth in the Naismith bracket, and the Wolf Pack will open against No. 3 seed The Master’s (California) on Wednesday in Independence, Missouri.
Xavier (22-11), the GCAC tourney champion, is seeded seventh in the Naismith. The Gold Nuggets will face No. 2 Campbellsville (Kentucky).
“I don’t know much about (The Master’s), but they obviously shoot the ball really well,” Loyola coach Kellie Kennedy said. “They are ranked nationally in the 3-point-shooting statistics.”
Xavier coach Bo Browder, who has guided the Nuggets to the NAIAs for the 14th time in 17 seasons, is familiar with Campbellsville, as well as some of the other teams in the bracket. Xavier beat the bracket’s top seed, Our Lady of the Lake of San Antonio, in overtime early in the season.
If Loyola and Xavier both win their first-round games, the two would meet in the second round. In their only meeting this season, the Wolf Pack beat the Nuggets 67-57 on Feb. 17 at Loyola.
Kennedy, whose team was a No. 2 seed last year but lost in the first round, said she doesn’t want to look past The Master’s.
“Usually, though, they don’t put teams from the same area in the same bracket.”
Browder said he, too, was surprised that Xavier and Loyola are in the Naismith.
“But it would be a blessing if we could play each other, because all of the teams in the tournament are good,” he said.