Preview: Golden Eagles Will Have Hands Full in Opening Round
SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (March 11, 2013) - After claiming the No. 4 overall seed in the 2013 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championships, John Brown (27-6) faces an unfamiliar foe in Life (Ga.), as the two clash in the round of 32 in Kansas City, Mo.
While the two squads have never faced each other prior to Thursday's 12:30 p.m. tip-off, each school has carved out a consistent place for itself at Municipal Auditorium. The Golden Eagles are making its third appearance in the last four years, seventh overall, while Life will make its fifth-consecutive showing, fourteenth overall, at the Division I Men’s Basketball National Championships. The Running Eagles (19-12) have captured three national championships, once in 1997, then back-to-back years from 1999-2000. Life also has another title game appearance on its record, but fell to Oklahoma City in 1994.
John Brown boasts a national championship of its own, when in 2005, the Golden Eagles ran through the tournament, knocking off seeded Union (Tenn.), Louisiana State - Shreveport and Azusa Pacific (Calif.) en route to capturing the title. JBU has accumulated an overall record of 9-5 in Kansas City, good enough for a 64.3 winning percentage. Life on the other hand, has an all-time record of 22-10 (68.8 percent). The Running Eagles haven't fared well since the tournament returned to Kansas City in 2002, after a brief eight-year hiatus to Tulsa, Okla., that began in 1994, posting an 0-5 record in opening round games. In the Golden Eagles' previous appearances, JBU has fallen in the round of 32 twice, but has also made one second-round appearance, two showings in the round of 16 and a lone quarterfinal bid.
The Running Eagles punched its ticket to Kansas City by way of claiming the TransSouth Athletic Conference tournament championship, defeating Blue Mountain (Miss.) in the semifinals before dispatching Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) in the title game, played on its home court in Marietta, Ga. The TransSouth is a six-team conference that will disband operations at the end of the year, forcing members to find another home or compete as an independent.
John Brown earned its trip to the national tournament by claiming the No. 2 national at-large bid. Although sporting as high as a No. 3 ranking during the second semester, the Golden Eagles were unable to claim the Sooner Athletic Conference's only automatic bid after falling to upstart Oklahoma City in the SAC tournament championship game. Despite clinching its first-ever SAC regular season championship by posting a 14-2 record, the Sooner Athletic Conference only offered one automatic bid as the conference has less than 12 member institutions. The Golden Eagles also finished the 2012-13 campaign an impressive 5-2 against top-25 competition.
Life's roster features an incredible 11 seniors accompanied by three juniors. The Running Eagles are led by senior guard Bobby Smith, who averages 16.2 points per game and ranks No. 4 in the nation in steals per contest (2.76). Just behind Smith is senior guard Greg Thomas' 16.1 points per night. Life's final double-digit scorer is junior guard Latraius Mosely, who chips in with an average of 11.7 points per night. LU ranks No. 1 in the nation as a team in steals per game (13.129) and total steals (407). These impressive figures leads to its No. 7 ranking in turnover margin (4.645).
While Life manufactures most of its points off turnovers, the Golden Eagles feature a different style of attack which mostly originates from its sharpshooters knocking down long-distance shots. John Brown holds the nation's top three-point shooting average (39.6 percent) and ranks No. 3 in both total triples made this season (335) and three-pointers made per game (10.152). Senior guard Coleson Rakestraw leads a quartet of Golden Eagles in double-digit scoring, averaging 11.0 points per night. A pair of freshman occupy the second and third scoring slots for JBU as guard Kofi Josephs notches an average of 10.3 points per night while forward D'Shon Taylor tallies 10.0 points on average. Second on the squad for the majority of the season, sophomore forward Max Hopfgartner also lands 10.0 points per game.
Freshman Nate Anderson has been an impressive addition in the backcourt as the 6-foot-10 forward has totaled 48 blocks on the season, good enough for eighth in the nation. Anderson set his personal best twice this season, landing two seven-block performances during SAC play. He also ranks eleventh in the country in blocks per game (1.445).
Late in the game, senior guard E.J. McWoods has proven clutch at the free throw line, shooting at an impressive 87.5 percent at the charity stripe. McWoods converted a career-high 13 attempts on Feb. 16 against Lubbock Christian (Texas) en route to another career-high, 25 points, as John Brown defeated the Chaparrals 84-78 in a double-overtime thriller to clinch the SAC regular season championship.
2013 Post-Season Quick Facts
Set a program-record by notching 27 regular season victories en route to its first-ever Sooner Athletic Conference regular season championship...Featured in two NAIA National Game of the Week matchups against Oklahoma Baptist, finishing 1-1 against the Bison...Won an impressive five of seven contests against top-25 competition...Holds eight top-10 rankings in team categories including No. 1 in three-point field goal percentage (39.6), No. 3 in total three-point field goals made (335) and No. 3 in three-point field goals made per game (10.15)...Netted four All-Conference selections: Coleson Rakestraw (first team), Abel Galliguez (second team), E.J. McWoods (honorable mention) and Max Hopfgartner (honorable mention)...Features the 2013 SAC Freshman of the Year, Kofi Josephs, and SAC Coach of the Year, Clark Sheehy...Landed a winning streak of seven or more games three separate times, including an 8-0 start to the season...
National Tournament History
John Brown is making its third appearance in four years in Kansas City and its seventh all-time...Last season, the Golden Eagles were ousted in the first round by Montana - Western, losing 85-83 in overtime...In 2010, JBU earned wins over McKendree (Ill.) in the first round before bouncing Fresno Pacific (Calif.) in the second round, eventually falling to Southern Poly (Ga.) in the quarterfinals...In 2006, the Golden Eagles fell in the opening round to sixth-ranked Azusa Pacific (Calif.), one year after ousting the Cougars in the 2005 National Championship game...In 2005, John Brown pieced together an unprecedented five-game stretch en route to its only national championship, downing Union (Tenn.), Louisiana State at Shreveport, Biola (Calif.), Carroll (Mont.) and Azusa Pacific in consecutive fashion after winning five of its last six games entering the tournament with its only loss coming in the SAC tournament title game to Oklahoma Baptist...In 2004, JBU dispatched eventual NCAA I member Houston Baptist (Texas) in the first round only to come up short in the second round against Concordia - Irvine (Calif.)...The Golden Eagles won its first-ever game at Kansas City in 2003, besting seventh-seeded Azusa Pacific in the opening round before falling in a close contest to Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) in the second round...John Brown boasts a 9-5 all-time record in six appearances at the National Tournament, holding a 64.3 win percentage and is the only institution from the state of Arkansas to win a title in Kansas City...