MARYVILLE, Mo. – Is this Missouri burg the new Titletown USA? It may be after this weekend, as hometown Northwest Missouri State University has a shot Saturday at its fourth national title, and its third straight, in the Division II men’s basketball championship game.
The university could become the first in history to win three Division II men’s basketball titles in a row.
The fifth-seeded Bearcats take on third seed Augusta (Ga.) University at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday in Evansville, Indiana. The game will be broadcast nationally on CBS.
NWMS, 33-5, reached its third straight championship game with a 70-57 Final Four win Thursday over No. 8 seed Black Hills State University (South Dakota), ending that team’s 10-game win streak. On Thursday, the Bearcats had beaten No. 4 seed Bentley University (Massachusetts) 61-43 in their Elite Eight matchup.
This will be just Augusta University’s second appearance in the national championship game. It has never won the title.
According to the NWMS sports department: the Bearcats have won 23 of their last 24 NCAA Tournament games; head coach Ben McCollum is 28-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament; and the Bearcat men have won 54 of their last 55 neutral court games. The team is a startling 131-8 the past four seasons, and 192-13 over the last six years, under its 13-year head coach.
A win Saturday could mint a dynasty, and send chills through the rest of Division II basketball – especially since there’s nary a senior on the Bearcats’ roster. In fact, eight of the team’s 12 players are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
The team is balanced as well: All five starters scored in double figures in the team’s Final Four win Thursday. And whereas sophomore forward Luke Waters led the team in scoring with 17 points in that game, it was junior guard Trevor Hudgins’ 24 points that paced the team’s Elite Eight victory Tuesday.
Hudgins’ 866 points this year is the third-highest single-season sum in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association history. His career 430 three-pointers also ranks as fifth-best in Division II history.
Featured photo shows Northwest men’s basketball celebrating its seventh consecutive MIAA regular season title. Photo by Todd Weddle / Northwest Missouri State University.