Vanguard University pregame
Vs. Life University
Wednesday, 4:15 p.m. at Kansas City Mo.
The Vanguard University men's basketball team is the No. 6 overall seed in the NAIA Tournament, but unranked Life is anything but an overmatched first-round foe.
The Lions (27-6) won the Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles en route to their first NAIA Tournament appearance since 2006. GSAC Coach of the Year Rhett Soliday's squad has won four in a row and six of its last eight.
Life (19-14) is an at-large entry after falling to No. 1 overall seed Cal State San Marcos, 112-95, in its conference tournament final. The Running Eagles, who lead NAIA Division I in scoring (just shy of 99 points per game) have twice beaten teams ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time. Life's schedule, arguably the most difficult in Division I, included 16 games against teams ranked in the NAIA top 25.
"Life is the best team we've played all year, maybe with the exception of Cardinal Stritch [ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II]," Cal State San Marcos Coach Jim Saia said after the conference tournament final.
Life, which won NAIA Division I titles in 2000, 1999 and 1997 and was the runner-up in 1994, is based in Marietta, Ga. Coach John Barrett's squad, which has scored at least 100 14 times, is led by 6-foot-6 senior guard Latarius Mosley, who ranks No. 2 in the nation in scoring at 23.7 per game. His 9.1 rebounds per contest are No. 13 in the NAIA.
The Running Eagles have five starters averaging double-figures in scoring, including 6-3 senior guard Philip Jenkins (12.9), and 5-10 junior guard Caleb Hayes (11.1). Jenkins averages 4.5 rebounds and his 50 steals lead a team ranked No. 2 in the nation in that category. Hayes leads the team with 4.1 assists per outing.
Life is shooting 47.9% from the field, which ranks 14th nationally.
Vanguard is led by GSAC Player of the Year Preston Wynne, a senior guard averaging 19.9 points a game with a team-best 102 three-pointers.
Junior guard Chris Gorman chips in 15.7 points per game, while junior DeAngelo Jones is averaging 12.8 points per contest.
Junior Keith Mason averages 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, while freshman Zach Allmon contributes 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per outing.
Wednesday's winner will advance to Friday's second round against either Westminster of Utah or No. 11-seeded Benedictine of Kansas.
— Barry Faulkner