The 2019 National Junior College Athletics Association Division I Men’s Basketball Championship begins Monday in Hutchinson, Kansas, with the championship game scheduled for Saturday, March 23. And for the first time in 23 years, the Casper College Thunderbirds will be competing for a title.
The T-Birds (32-2) secured their spot by defeating Sheridan College on Saturday in the Region IX championship game. The T-Birds likely would have received an at-large bid even without winning the Region IX title, but their victory left no doubt they would be making the trip to Hutchinson.
Casper College is seeded ninth in the NJCAA Championship and will face 24th-seed Cleveland State Community College (15-15) in the first round Monday at 11 a.m. MT. The Cougars punched their ticket by defeating Roane State to win the District VII title.
Here’s a look at some season superlatives for the T-Birds and how they stack up against the rest of the field, which includes all 16 regional champs and eight at-large teams.
- Casper College has the most wins (32) and the best winning percentage (.941) of any team in the field.
- Sheridan College has the second-most wins (31) and the third-best winning percentage (.912) in the field. Two of the Generals’ losses this season were to the T-Birds.
- Five at-large teams were seeded higher than the T-Birds at No. 9: No. 3 Vincennes University, No. 4 Coffeyville Community College, No. 5 Florida Southwestern State College, No. 6 Odessa College and No. 8 Ranger College.
- Region V in Texas and Region VIII in Florida are the only regions with three teams in the field. Regions IX, XI and XVI are each represented by two schools.
- The T-Birds’ scoring average of 101.4 points per game is third-best in the country and the top mark in the field.
- No. 1 seed Northwestern Florida State College was ranked No. 8 in the final NJCAA Top 25 poll two weeks ago. Casper College was ranked No. 6 in the same poll.
- Casper College head coach Dan Russell is just the fifth coach to take the T-Birds to the NJCAA Championships. Swede Erickson (1963-64, 1966, 1970-72, 1976, 1978, 1985) got them there nine times and Pat Rafferty (1988), John Morrison (1992) and Ed Toohey (1996) did it once each.
- The T-Birds have set program records this season for field-goal percentage (52.4) and free-throw percentage (73.9).
- Casper College has the longest winning streak in the nation at 15 games. Seward County Community College has won 11 in a row and is the only other team in the field with a double-digit winning streak.