On the eve of the “big” tournament, I found myself a little too restless to wait for this morning’s NCAA action that will consume my entire life for the next few weeks. Aside from October and Opening Day, there is not a sporting event that I love more than the March to Madness. So, I convinced Mrs. MoneyMouth that it would be a fun idea to go watch some college basketball from a different level: the NAIA.
The NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) is holding its annual championship tournament this weekend at the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, in which 32 teams will compete to be crowned as the National Champion. While that may sound pretty similar to the more popular NCAA tournament, the big difference is the NAIA takes a total of 7 days to crown its winner instead of the customary 19. As you can imagine, playing 31 games in a single auditorium over 7 days is no easy accomplishment, especially when 16 of those games are played in the span of 48 hours.
Unfortunate for myself and the Mrs. was the fact that our alma mater, Point Loma Nazarene University, was set to tip off against the number 9 seed, Southern Nazarene University, at 10:30pm. That is, until one of the earlier games went into double overtime. So 10:30 quickly turned into 11:30, and as you can imagine the game suffered as a result. While these two teams fought it out, the officiating became more and more loose as the game went further into the early hours of the morning. Fouls went uncalled and intensities flared as the refs’ eyes became more bloodshot and sleep deprived. Lucky for Point Loma, some of this worked to their favor (although there were plenty of missed calls going the other way) and they pulled out a stunning upset in overtime, winning 76 – 73.
While I was rather thrilled to witness a Point Loma victory in the NAIA tournament (a player I spoke with after the game estimated that it had been 40 years since PLNU has had a victory in the tournament), I was disappointed to witness the game itself suffer due to its extremely late time slot. Of course, it was only after leaving the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium at 1:30am that I understood the slogan plastered above the entrance:
“College Basketball’s Toughest Tournament”
You better believe it.