The Motlow Bucks will play the first National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) men’s basketball tournament contest in school history when they face Connors State College of Oklahoma in the opening round tomorrow March 19 at 10 a.m. at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kan. The tournament begins on Monday with six first-round contests.
The Bucks (25-3) won the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) regular season and tournament championship. Motlow represents District 7 in the NJCAA, and is the 14th seed in the tournament, with the first eight seeds gaining first-round byes. Bucks’ head coach Jerry Nichols had hoped to get one of those byes.
“I hoped we would get a higher seed than 14th,” Nichols said. “Playing at 10 a.m. against a quality program like Connors State will be a big challenge for us. Hopefully we can get a win and play again. I am confident that our guys will give everything they have.”
The Connors State Cowboys (24-8) are a member of District 2 in the NJCAA and enter the tournament as the 19th seed. They were upset in the Region II championship game by Eastern Oklahoma State College, and received an at-large bid to the tournament, their seventh tournament appearance and first since 2010.
The winner of Tuesday morning’s contest will face the 3rd-seeded College of Central Florida (30-3), the District 8 champions. Iowa Western Community College (31-2) is the top seed in the tournament, while the nation’s only undefeated team, Spartanburg Methodist College from South Carolina, is the No. 2 seed.
The Cowboys reached the final four in Hutchinson in 2009 and won the national championship in 1990. They are led by sophomore guards Josh Cameron, who averages 15.8 points and 2.2 assists per game, and Hakeem Harris, who averages 12.5 points and 3.3 assists. Connors State has four players who average double-digit scoring.
As a team the Cowboys average 74 points per game and shoot 45 percent from the field, 35 percent from the 3-point line, and 71 percent from the foul line. They are 3-2 on neutral courts this year and are 7-3 in their previous 10 contests. Their 63.4 rebounds per game average is fifth in the nation.
The Bucks also have four players who average 10 or more points per game, led by Chris Hawkins at 13.4. Hawkins averaged 21.3 points per game during the TCCAA tournament and was named MVP. DJ Jones averaged 12.5 points per game this season, Perrin Buford 11 and Sean Gardner 10.9.
Hawkins also leads the Bucks in rebounds with 7.2 per game, while Buford averages 5.7 and Michael Tomlin 5.5 Kerrell Davis leads Motlow in assists with 4.7 per game and in steals with 1.5.
The Bucks average 84 points per game, the 17th-highest average in the nation, and have shot just over 50 percent from the field, which is tied for fifth nationally. Motlow shoots 37.7 percent from the 3-point line and 63.5 percent from the foul line. The Bucks have won 11 straight games and are 20-1 since November 27.
All tournament contests can be seen live on the internet on NJCAA-TV at www.ihigh.com/njcaatv.