The Drury University men’s basketball team will be playing for the NCAA Division II national title on Sunday when they face Metro State. Below is some information on the game if you are planning to make the trip to Atlanta or follow the team from here in Missouri. They are estimating 800-1,000 fans will be making the trek south to cheer on the Panthers.
*WHEN: Tipoff is at 3 p.m. (CST) Sunday (April 7) at Philips Arena (18,238 capacity) in Atlanta, Ga., home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
*WHO: The nationally seventh-ranked Drury Panthers (30-4), riding a school-record, 22-game winning streak, will take on Metropolitan State (32-2) out of Denver, which was ranked third in the final NABC Top 25 Coaches Poll.
*HOW THEY GOT HERE: Drury defeated 20th-ranked South Carolina-Aiken 84-75 and No. 3 Western Washington 107-97 in the Elite Eight in Louisville, Ky., over the weekend; Metro State defeated Franklin Pierce 78-65 and top-ranked West Liberty 83-76. Of note, Metro State defeated St. Mary’s (Texas) 78-70 in the South Central Regional title game; St. Mary’s is one of four teams to defeat the Panthers this season, handing DU an 82-73 loss in Las Vegas on Dec. 19.
*HISTORY: Drury is in the NCAA-II post-season for the eighth time, and sixth time in nine years under coach Steve Hesser; Metro State’s Roadrunners are making their 17th post-season tourney appearance, and won national championships in 2000 and 2002.
*WHO TO WATCH: For the Panthers, you know the drill … the sharpshooting of Alex Hall, who had a season-high 35 points in the win over national semifinals, the silky smoothness of point guard Brandon Lockhart and the electrifying, high-wire act of DU’s best dunker in years, sophomore Cameron Adams. For the Roadrunners, they are very balanced, with five players averaging in double-figures. Brandon Jefferson, a 5-9 junior point guard, averages 14.7 points, Jonathan Morse, a 6-8 senior, adds 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds and Demetrius Miller, a 6-1 senior guard, adds 13.8 points for third-year coach Derrick Clark, whose team leads the nation in fewest turnovers committed per game (10.0).
*MORE ABOUT METRO STATE: The Roadrunners are members of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The school, located in Denver, is a public university with an enrollment of 22,976, making it the second largest university in the state of Colorado behind the University of Colorado in Boulder. The school wanted to change its name to Denver State University a couple of years ago, but faced heated resistance from the University of Denver, finally and officially settling on Metropolitan State University of Denver.
*TICKETS: Admission is free to the title game, as well as to the NCAA Division III national championship game just before it (11:30 a.m.. CST start) between Mary Hardin-Baylor (27-5) and Amherst (29-2). It’s all part of the NCAA’s 75th anniversary celebration, with the D-II and D-III championship games sandwiched between the NCAA Division I semifinals (Saturday night) and championship game (Monday night), also in Atlanta but at the Georgia Dome.
*PERKS: By reaching this point, both the Drury and Metro State teams and their coaches will be admitted free to their own suite for the D-I semifinals on Saturday night. The winning team on Sunday also gets to stick around on Monday night to watch, and be recognized during, the D-I national title game. Their own “One Shining Moment,” if you will.