Dillard coach Mike Newell knew exactly what his team was in for when the brackets for the NAIA championship tournament were released Wednesday.
The Bleu Devils (20-9), who received an automatic berth after winning their third consecutive Gulf Coast Athletic Conference tournament championship Sunday, will face Westmont (Calif.) in the first round at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Dillard, ranked 18th in the NAIA, drew the fifth seed in the Liston bracket. Westmont, ranked 13th, is seeded fourth.
“They run a very methodical offense, kind of a Princeton type,” Newell said. “We're going to really have to guard them and play them real tough, because if they get an eight-point lead, it's like they have a 20-point lead because of how they play and because they can shoot.”
The Bleu Devils reached the Sweet 16 the past two seasons.
No. 25 Xavier (24-8), which lost to Dillard in the GCAC tournament championship game, is the No. 7 seed in the Naismith bracket and will play No. 8 Oklahoma City (23-8), which is seeded seventh.
The NAIA tournaments are March 14-20, with first-round games Wednesday and Thursday. The men's tournament is in Kansas City, Missouri, and the women's is in Billings, Montana.
Dillard and Loyola will particpate in the women's tournament. Like Dillard's men, the women's team also is a No. 5 seed. The Bleu Devils (24-5), ranked No. 19, will play in the Duer bracket against fourth-seeded Montana Western (24-8), which is ranked 14th.
Loyola (25-5), seeded fifth in the Cramer bracket, will play fourth-seeded Our Lady of the Lake in the first round.
Xavier coach Alfred Williams guided the Gold Rush to the NAIA tournament in his second season after the team won just 10 games last season. It marks the seventh appearance in eight years for Xavier. The Gold Rush will play at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
“Oklahoma City is a program with a lot of history,” Williams said. “I know they are long and athletic. They are big up front, so we'll have to do a good job of rebounding.”
Loyola won the SSAC tourney for the third time in four years. In the past five seasons, the Wolf Pack also has won two regular-season titles. Our Lady of the Lake, located in San Antonio, lost this season to Dillard and Xavier. The first-round game is at 9 am Thursday.
“We played them in 2015, and I know they press a lot,” said Loyola coach Kellie Kennedy, who is in her 10th year and has led the Wolf Pack to the national touranment five consecutive seasons. “(Our Lady of the Lake) tries to turn you over and score quickly. But we're a tough team.”
Loyola lost to Montana State-Northern in the first round last season. Kennedy said it was particularly disappointing because she thought the Pack had the talent to go far.
Like it's men's team, Dillard's women won the GCAC regular-season as well as the tournament. The Bleu Devils are in the big dance for the first time since 2004. They will play in the first round at 1:45 Wednesday.
“I just know that (Montana Western) came in second in the Frontier Conference,” coach Norbert Rome said. “Our team is playing really good. We're playing really confident, and I think we present a huge challenge for a lot of teams at the national level because of our speed, athleticism, our ability to score on the inside, as well as our ability to shoot from the perimeter.
“(Point guard) Adriian (Jackson) is going to be a mismatch for a lot of those guards.”
If they win in the first round, Dillard's men's team, its women's and Loyola would face the winner of a No. 1 seed vs. No. 8 seed in the second round.