Men’s basketball to compete in College Basketball Invitational as No. 4 seed

The College Basketball Invitational announced their bracket on Selection Sunday, including teams that were just short of making it to the NCAA postseason tournament. The Southern Utah University men’s basketball team was named the No. 4 seed and will play No. 13 University of North Alabama in the first round.

If the Thunderbirds go all the way, their schedule will be as follows:

— First round: March 18 at 11 a.m., streamed on FloHoops.

— Quarterfinals: March 20 at 12 p.m., streamed on FloHoops.

— Semifinals: March 21 at 5 p.m., streamed on ESPN 2.

— Championship: March 22 at 3 p.m., streamed on ESPN 2.

All times are listed as MDT, and all games will take place at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.

First round preview

Southern Utah finished third place in the Western Athletic Conference with an overall record of 22-12. They made it to the championship game in the WAC Tournament but fell to Grand Canyon University.

The Thunderbirds were one of the top-scoring offenses in the country for the majority of the season and ended the year averaging 82.5 points per game. Tevian Jones led the scoring with 17.6 points per game and ended the regular season No. 4 in the WAC. Maizen Fausett, Harrison Butler, Drake Allen and Jason Spurgin all contributed to the offense by averaging at least 10 points each. Allen led the team in assists with 123, almost 40 more than Butler’s runner-up total of 85. Southern Utah shot 46.6% from the field and 34.7% from three-point range.

Of the 13 teams in the WAC, Southern Utah was ranked as the 12th defensive team. However, they were ranked second in both defensive rebounds and blocks. Butler and Fausett collected 6.7 and 6.5 rebounds per game, respectively, to put them on top of the Thunderbirds’ roster. Spurgin blocked 56 shots in 34 games, earning SUU the No. 2 spot in the conference. 

After a regular season record of 18-14, the University of North Alabama Lions ended in sixth place in the ASUN Conference. They earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament but lost to Eastern Kentucky University in the quarterfinals.

The Lions scored 74.9 points per game, led by Daniel Ortiz’ 14.9, Jacari Lane’s 12.9 and KJ Johnson’s 12.6. Ortiz was the team’s best long-range shooter with a 41.6% three-point percentage. Lane and Johnson also supported the offense by dishing out 107 and 97 assists, respectively. North Alabama had a team field-goal percentage of 46.3% and shot 37.2% from behind the three-point line.

North Alabama struggled with defense and rebounding this year. Damian Forrest’s team-leading 6.6 rebounds per game were not enough to prevent the Lions from being outrebounded in 17 of their games. They allowed opponents to score 74.4 points per game with a 44.4% field goal percentage. Despite their winning record, the Lions only outscored their competition by .5 points on average.


Story and photos by: Anden Garfield