KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One program is back in the national spotlight for a seventh time. The other is in uncharted territory.
Top-ranked Georgetown College (Ky.) makes a seventh NAIA Division I men’s basketball national championship appearance on Tuesday night at historic Municipal Auditorium Arena, while its opponent, Carroll College, will tip off in its first national title contest.
The Tigers (32-4), making their 25th consecutive national tournament appearance, finished the season No. 1 after winning the Mid-South Conference Tournament. Georgetown has defeated Rocky Mountain College (77-57), LSU Shreveport (82-79), Arizona Christian (80-78) and William Carey (Miss.) in Monday night’s national semifinals, 94-83.
Tuesday marks the historic program’s seventh national title appearance, the last coming in 2016, a 100-99 defeat against Mid-America Christian (Okla.). The Tigers are 2-4 in their championship appearances, winning in 1998 and 2013, the latter coming in head coach Chris Briggs’ second season as coach.
“When we recruit these guys, that’s what we talk about. Trying to get to the Fab Four, trying to get to the national title (game), trying to put a ring on their finger. That’s why these guys want to come to Georgetown, because of the success that Georgetown has had going back 60 years,” said Briggs. “It’s fantastic to be playing on the final night. I’m super proud of them, super happy for them, because as an 18- to 22-year-old college basketball player, these are the things you dream of, playing for a national title and cutting nets down.”
The Tigers are arguably the most talented team in the 32-team field, bringing a balanced mix of local talent and college transfers to the roster.
Senior guard Troy Steward leads the Tigers at 17.5 points per contest, but it’s been junior forward Chris Coffey that has wowed the crowds each evening at Municipal Auditorium. The Louisville native tallied a career-high 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, his third double-double of the national tournament, in Monday’s win over William Carey. He added multiple dunks, including an alley-oop slam in the final minutes, plus knocked down a running half-court 3-pointer to end the first half.
“He’s always been able to catch and jam, that’s why we signed him out of high school out of Louisville. He came in and played with our guys and was tip-dunking everything,” said Briggs. “He’s developed a 3-point shot over the past few years, and that’s a credit to him putting in the hard work and my assistant coaches … those guys worked with him. He’s really improved his outside shot, and if he’s able to knock that shot down, he’s a really dangerous player, as you can see.”
The Tigers remained in Municipal Auditorium Monday night after clinching their championship berth, watching Frontier Conference foes Carroll College and Lewis-Clark State in the late semifinal, where the Saints would punch their ticket from the Fab Four to the title game.
Briggs admits he hadn’t seen much of either program prior to Monday night’s game.
“I know we played Rocky Mountain in the first round and they were a really good team and I know (Carroll and Lewis-Clark) are good teams, as well. I watched a little bit of them scouting Rocky Mountain,” Briggs said after defeating William Carey on Monday.
Georgetown and Carroll are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. (MDT) with the game broadcast live on ESPN3 or the Watch ESPN app. MontanaSports.com will provide a live scoreboard throughout the game.