PORTSMOUTH — The Shawnee State University men’s bsaketball team parlayed its record-setting 26-2 regular season and conference tournament campaign into its first No. 1 seed of any kind at the national tournament level, earning a bye to the final contest of the Crestview Hills A Bracket in the 2020-21 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship Opening Round, presented by Ballogy.
At that juncture, the Bears will play either No. 2 Rochester (Mich.) or No. 3 West Virginia Tech on Saturday, March 13, with the matchup between SSU and the winner of RU-WV Tech determining who advances to the final site in Kansas City, Mo.
Shawnee State — who will play in familiar confines at Thomas More University in Northern Kentucky — is in the midst of its most successful season in program history with a 26-2 overall record.
The Bears are ranked at the top of the NAIA in blocks (161) and blocks per game (5.8), are second in defensive rebounds (32.7), defensive field goal percentage (37.2), and total offensive rebounds (1,263) and are fourth in rebounds per game (45.1).
The Bears are also ranked inside the national top-six in rebounding margin (plus-11.3), and total assists (466) and are eighth in defensive field goal percentage (29) as well as ninth in scoring offense (2,363).
In four short seasons, DeLano Thomas has turned the men’s basketball program into one of the most improved programs in the country, regardless of association.
Thomas holds a career record of 75-46 (62 percent) but in his last 60 games, the winning percentage improves to a strong 78.3 percent as he and the Bears have gone 47-13 over his last 60 affairs. He is in the running for NAIA Coach of the Year honors after taking home NAIA Coach of the Week accolades back in January.
As of this week, Thomas has coached four First-Team All-MSC players as well as four Second-Team All-MSC talents. EJ Onu won the program’s first-ever conference player of the year award and took home Mid-South Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors for the third time in four seasons. James Jones (first team), Miles Thomas (second team), and Amier Gilmore (honorable mention) joined Onu on the all-conference list.
The national tournament group includes Thomas, Onu, Lindal Yarbrough, D’Andre Price, Zack Kelly, Jack Trainer, Justin Patrick, James Jones, Jakiel Wells, Miles Thomas, Amier Gilmore, Issac Abergut, Donoven Carlisle, Latavious Mitchell, Kobie Johnson, Bailey Davis, Tre Beard, Shawn Paris, Jr., Markus Geldenhuys, Corie Blount, Jr., and Desmond Crosby, Jr.
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