#1 Sharks Take on #2 Mavericks for NCAA Championship

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – For the second consecutive season, the top-ranked Nova Southeastern Sharks Men’s Basketball team will compete for the NCAA Division II National Championship. NSU, the reigning champions, will take on the No. 2 Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks on Thursday afternoon at the Ford Center. Both the Sharks and the Mavericks enter the NCAA Division II National Championship riding lengthy winning streaks; NSU has won 20 consecutive games, while Minnesota State has won each of their last 15 contests.

Under the direction of Head Coach Jim Crutchfield, the Nova Southeastern Sharks have become one of, if not the most, dominant programs across all levels of collegiate basketball. Over the past three seasons, NSU has accumulated a record of 99-3 (0.971 winning percentage), winning three Sunshine State Conference regular season and tournament titles, three NCAA South Region crowns, and the 2022-23 NCAA Division II National Championship.

Offensive prowess has been a staple of Crutchfield’s teams throughout his coaching career, but the story throughout the NCAA Tournament has been the Sharks tenacious defense. Since the beginning of the NCAA Tournament, NSU has held opponents to a combined 40% (127-313) from the field and has forced 91 turnovers. The Sharks picked up their effort in Evansville. Nova Southeastern forced 21 turnovers by Southern New Hampshire and held the Penmen to just six field goals – 18 points – in the second half of the Elite Eight match-up on Tuesday afternoon. In the national semifinal against Cal. State, San Bernardino, NSU limited the Coyotes to just 13 made field goals in the second half and forced 19 turnovers.

Nova Southeastern has also outscored their opponents by a combined 82 points during the NCAA Tournament.

HOW THEY GOT HERE
No. 1 Nova Southeastern | 32-2 | Sunshine State Conference Regular Season & Tournament Champions, NCAA South Region Champions
Entering the NCAA Division II National Championship on Saturday, the Nova Southeastern Sharks have won each of their last 11 NCAA tournament games.

Following a thrilling 17-point comeback to defeat seventh-seed Southern New Hampshire, where NSU claimed their first lead with less than seven minutes remaining, the Sharks found their groove against Cal. State – San Bernardino in the Final Four. Nova Southeastern trailed in the national semifinal for a total of 16 seconds and defeated CSUSB 91-77 on Thursday afternoon.

Five Sharks scored in double-digits in the win, with 24-points from Shane Hunter leading the way. Hunter and Ryker Cisarik combined for eight blocks, while NSU forced 19 turnovers by the Yotes. Isaiah Fuller, Ryan Davis, MJ Iraldi, Ryan Walsh and Hunter all totaled two steals.

Nova Southeastern enters the NCAA Division II National Championship leading the nation in scoring (100.4 ppg), scoring margin (+22), steals (474), steals-per-game (14.4), while also ranking second in fastbreak points (668), third in rebounds (1424), and fifth in assists (621).
 
 
No. 2 Minnesota State, Mankato | 34-2 | Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Regular Season & Tournament Champions, NCAA Central Region Champions
The Mavericks have enjoyed a 17-game improvement from their 2022-23 season and will play for the program’s first NCAA Division II National Championship. Minnesota State is led by the Willingham brothers, Malik and Kyreese. Malik Willingham has averaged 18.9 points throughout the 2023-24 campaign, while Kyreese, the younger of the two, has averaged 14.6 points.

Minnesota State handled eighth-seeded Ferris State 98-70 in the Elite Eight and defeated fourth-seeded West Texas A&M 78-72 in the national semifinal.

The Sharks pursuit of a second consecutive NCAA Division II National Championship will tip-off at 3 p.m. EDT and will be available on CBS, check your local listings. To stay up-to-date on NSU Men’s Basketball, be sure to follow on Instagram & X at NSU_MBasketball.
 

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