KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Lee men’s basketball team will take part in its eighth straight NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship beginning on Wednesday morning at 11:45 EST. The event, in its 76th year, has been held in Kansas City since 2002, and will take place at historic Municipal Auditorium.
There are 31 games scheduled from March 13-19 in single-elimination format. The Flames, 29-3, will face Voorhees College (Denmark, S.C.). Coach Michael Cheney has directed his Tigers to 12 wins in their last 13 starts. The South Carolina team has seven wins over programs from the Southern States Athletic Conference and is 22-11 overall.
Brandon Allen has been a force for Voorhees, a team making its sixth appearance in the national tournament and first since 2006. The 6-foot-6 Allen averages 15.6 points per game. He pulls down 9.1 rebounds (No. 2 in the NAIA) and has recorded 11 double-doubles this season and one triple-double. Sam Dotson averages 12.5 ppg and Jeffery Evans 10.9.
Lee’s leading scorer, Will Barnes (20.5 ppg) missed most of the SSAC semifinal battle with Faulkner after suffering a serious cut above the eye. He should be back and ready in the tourney opener. The Flames have three others who join Barnes in double figures. Jamorris Gaines (14.9), Chase Dunn (11.7) and big Steve Bennett (10.2) pace a team that averages 83 ppg. Duran Blue is one of the nation’s top assist men (4.6). Bennett grabs almost eight boards a start and Chad Lee totals 6.6.
However, coach Tommy Brown, who has a 205-59 worksheet since taking over the Flames, always prides himself in coaching defense. His Flames are tops in the nation, allowing clubs to shoot only 37 percent per outing. Brown has taken two Lee teams to the Elite Eight and would dearly love to see this unit go deep into the tourney in its final year of NAIA play.
A win against Voorhees would advance Lee into Friday’s second round. They would be matched against the winner of Montana Western and Philander Smith (Ark.) in the same 11:45 EST slot.
Wednesday’s game will be aired over 101.3 FM and around the world by Stretch Internet. The NAIA is also offering a pay-for-view streaming. Go to NAIA.org for more information.