NAIA Opening Round Outlook

There are 31 automatic bids and three at-large bids already determined due to being named host sites for a total of 35 teams. In the NAIA Opening Round, six sites host five teams and four locations will have four schools for a total of 46 teams competing in the tournament. There are 12 teams still to be named to the tournament.

Here are the teams which will be playing the NAIA Opening Round:

Columbia American MidwestAMC Tournament Champ
UnionAppalachian Athletic ConferenceAAC Tournament Champ
BryanAppalachian Athletic ConferenceAAC Tournament Champ
Antelope ValleyCalifornia Pacific ConferenceCPAC Tournament Champ
British ColumbiaCascade Collegiate ConferenceCascade Collegiate Champion
St. FrancisChicagoland Collegiate Athletic ConferenceCCAC Regular Season
St. XavierChicagoland Collegiate Athletic ConferenceCCAC  Tournament Winner
Georgia GwinnettContinental Athletic ConferenceCAC Tournament Champ (GGC is Opening Round Host)
FisherContinental Athletic ConferenceCAC Tournament Runner-up
TaylorCrossroads LeagueCrossroads Regular Season Champion (Opening Round Host)
Indiana WesleyanCrossroads LeagueCrossroads Tournament Champion
WestmontGolden State Athletic ConferenceTournament Champion (Opening Round Host)
DoaneGreat Plains Athletic ConferenceRegular Season Champion
Concordia (NE)Great Plains Athletic ConferenceTournament Champion or Regular Season Runner-Up
DillardGulf Coast Athletic ConferenceGCAC Tournament Champion
Grand ViewHeart of America Athletic ConferenceHeart Tournament Champion
MidAmerica NazareneHeart of America Athletic ConferenceHeart Tournament Runner-up
Kansas WesleyanKansas Collegiate Athletic ConferenceKCAC Regular Season Champion
McPhersonKansas Collegiate Athletic ConferenceKCAC Tournament Champion
CumberlandsMid-South ConferenceMid-South Tournament Champion (Opening Round Host)
Freed-HardemanMid-South Conference Mid-South Tournament Runner-Up
Bellevue North Star Athletic AssociationNSAA Tournament Champion (Opening Round Host)
LSU ShreveportRed River Athletic AssociationRed River Regular Season Champion (Opening Round Host)
Houston-Victoria Red River Athletic AssociationRed River Tournament Champion or Runner-Up
MidwayRiver States ConferenceRiver State Regular Season Champion
Point ParkRiver States ConferenceRiver State Tournament Champion
Oklahoma City Sooner Athletic ConferenceSAC Tournament Champion
MobileSouthern States Athletic ConferenceSSAC Tournament Champion
Southeastern The Sun ConferenceTSC Tournament Champion
Concordia (MI)Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic ConferenceWHAC Regular Season Champion
MadonnaWolverine-Hoosier Athletic ConferenceWHAC Tournament Champion or Runner-Up
Central Methodist Heart of America Athletic ConferenceAt-Large (Opening Round Host)
Lewis-Clark StateCascade Collegiate ConferenceAt-Large (Opening Round Host)
William CareySouthern States Athletic ConferenceAt-Large (Opening Round Host)

Top teams remaining for at-large consideration with odds to advance – five out of five ‘s is most likely: 

1. Tennessee Wesleyan (42-9), Appalachian Athletic Conference ⚾⚾⚾⚾⚾

Absolutely without a shadow of a doubt in. They’ll be the top seed in the Kingsport Region. They’re not officially the host, but the region is Appalachian Athletic Conference friendly. They were listed in the table above initially, but they’ve been moved to this section for clarity.

Post selection show note: The Bulldogs are playing in Indiana instead which is going to be a seven+ hour trip as opposed to about 2 1/2. Bummer for them and their fans.

2. Hope International (33-9), Golden State Athletic Conference ⚾⚾⚾⚾⚾

The Royals lost two games to Westmont in their conference tournament, but are a sure bet to get an at-large invite nonetheless. Not only do they have one of the top records in the NAIA, they have series wins over both Westmont and Vanguard. `

3. Missouri Baptist (42-7), American Midwest Conference ⚾⚾⚾⚾⚾

The Spartans won a series over Columbia during the regular season but lost two games to the Cougars in the AMC tournament. MBU had a strong showing at the Cajun Collision where they had wins over Texas Wesleyan and Science & Arts. They also split with Opening Round host Central Methodist during the regular season. The Spartans will definitely get an at-large invite.

4. Benedictine Mesa (42-12), California Pacific ⚾⚾⚾⚾⚾

The Redhawks have single wins over Taylor and Kansas Wesleyan, and swept three from Morningside. They lost the CalPac title game to Antelope Valley, but won a series against them in Mid April which was a part of a conference record 27-game win streak. The Redhawks will be in.

5. Webber International (40-14), The Sun Conference ⚾⚾⚾⚾⚾

The Warriors will absolutely get an at-large invite. They have 40 wins which include five victories over Ave Maria as well as a win over Southeastern. Other noteworthy wins include games against Indiana Southeast and Campbellsville. 

6. Texas Wesleyan (36-13), Sooner Athletic Conference ⚾⚾⚾⚾ 1/2

The Rams won the Sooner Athletic Conference regular season while earning wins over LSU Shreveport, Louisiana Christian, MidAmerica Nazarene and Baker. They dropped a game to Oklahoma City in the SAC tournament, but won their series over the Stars. The Rams are not a lock to get an at-large bid, but pretty gosh darn close.

7. Reinhardt (33-18),  Appalachian Athletic Conference⚾⚾⚾⚾ 1/2

The Eagles played one of the most competitive schedules in the NAIA and earned wins over Webber International, Indiana Southeast, William Carey, Freed-Hardeman, Bryan and Union. They finished in second place in the Appalachian Athletic Conference regular season and third in the AAC Tournament. They have absolutely shown they are a team worthy of an at-large invite.

8. Cumberland (35-13-1), Mid-South Conference ⚾⚾⚾⚾ 

The Phoenix won their first two games of the Mid-South Conference tournament, but were edged in their next two games by Cumberlands and Freed-Hardeman. They finished second in the conference standings with two wins over Bryan, a victory over Tennessee Wesleyan, as well as wins over IU Southeast and FHU. It would be a shame not to see Cole Turney (.523, 31 HR, .668 OB%) in the postseason.

9. Vanguard (33-16), Golden State Athletic Conference ⚾⚾⚾⚾

The Lions played a strong out-of-conference schedule which earns them points for quality of opposition over quantity of wins. They faced Southeastern, LSU Shreveport and Antelope Valley, but lost those contests. They did however earn strong wins over St. Thomas, Keiser and SAGU. They were swept by Westmont on the road, but each game was competitive. In sum, they beat the teams they were supposed to, but didn’t earn any upset wins. Nonetheless, their strong pitch staff should have them in the NAIA postseason. 

10. Morningside (36-13), Great Plains Athletic Conference ⚾⚾⚾ 1/2

Morningside would be a third selection from the GPAC which would be a surprise as they typically don’t send three teams dancing. Had the Mustangs won one of their three games against Benedictine Mesa in March it definitely would have helped their cause. They have a pair of wins over both Doane and Concordia, as well as a road win over Bellevue. Had Roosevelt won the Chicago Collegiate Athletic Conference that would have helped their stock as well. They’re going to need a decision maker to take a chance on them and the GPAC. 

11. Ave Maria (34-16), The Sun Conference ⚾⚾⚾ 1/2

The Gyrenes finished second in The Sun Conference standings which is a significant mark of success. They were also one of the few teams to bear Southeastern this season. However, aside from the one win over the Fire, Ave Maria’s body of work isn’t super impressive. They don’t have any other big wins, went 0-5 against Webber International and loaded up their win total with games against the ilk of Ohio Christian, Trinity Baptist, Massachusetts Maritime and Dordt. Still, they did handle conference foes St. Thomas and Keiser who aren’t cupcakes.

12. Science & Arts (34-17), Sooner Athletic Conference ⚾⚾⚾1/2

The Drovers had a slow start to the season but rebounded to win two games over both Bellevue and McPherson. During SAC play they swept first place Texas Wesleyan but finished behind the Rams in second place in the SAC standings.  Oklahoma City won the conference tournament with a 10-run rule over the Drovers, so OSAO finished second in the regular season and tournament. It would make sense that Texas Wesleyan would get a second conference bid over the Drovers so the question becomes if the conference gets three teams to NAIA Opening Round. The GPAC seems more worthy of three teams than the SAC this year so a school like Morningside could get the at-large bid over USAO as they too had a win over Bellevue.


13. Oklahoma Wesleyan (38-16), Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference ⚾⚾⚾
or Tabor (34-18),  Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference ⚾⚾ 1/2
or Ottawa (36-17) Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference ⚾⚾ 1/2

The Eagles started the season with an impressive 20-4, but have been far less formidable the second half of the year. With Kansas Wesleyan and McPherson gaining bids, OKWU would have to edge Tabor and Ottawa to be a third team out of the KCAC. That seems unlikely as the Eagles finished fifth in the conference standings. They did defeat Ottawa in the tournament, but lost a series to them in March. They also lost two of three to Tabor late in the regular season..

The Bluejays finished third in the KCAC and had a late regular season series win over Oklahoma Wesleyan. Early in the year they earned wins over McPherson and MidAmerica Nazarene and swept Ottawa. A strong showing in the conference tournament would have helped their chances, but they went 0-2 for an early exit.

Ottawa went 1-2 in the conference tournament with their win being against Friends. They were swept by Tabor, but won their series over OKWU. They swept three games from McPherson and went 1-4 against Kansas Wesleyan.

14. Loyola (31-22) , Southern States ⚾⚾
or Talladega Tornadoes (28-18-1), Southern States ⚾⚾
or Middle Georgia State (30-20), Southern States ⚾⚾

The Wolfpack was looking very, very good midseason with early wins over Freed-Hardeman, Mobile and Georgia Gwinnett, but went 7-12 to end the year. Many of the losses were quality as they were defeated by Louisiana Christian once, Georgia Gwinnett twice and William Carey five times, but they were losses nonetheless and many of them were by double-digits. Twenty-two losses seems a bit much for an at-large team. Middle Georgia State or Talladega would make more sense as another Southern States representative.

Middle Georgia State swept Loyola during the regular season and won their series with Talladega. They beat Reinhardt twice and quality losses against Mobile, Georgia Gwinnett and William Carey. They got shutout and mercy ruled in the SSAC tournament though.

Talladega had series wins over both Mobile and William Carey and split with Webber International. A victory over Fisher is a small bonus. They lost a series to Loyola which would give the Wolfpack an upper hand. Could be a dark horse entry.

15. Louisiana Christian (36-14), Red River Athletic Association⚾⚾

The Wildcats finished second in the Red River standings and had a strong season overall, but have not done themselves any favors in the conference tournament as they lost to Houston-Victoria and LSU-Alexandria by a combined score of 2-26. They swept four games easily from Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champ Dillard to start the season and added wins against McPherson and Loyola while having strong losses to Southeastern, LSU Shreveport and Texas Wesleyan. Those lopsided losses in the conference really sting.

16. Indiana Tech (33-17), Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference

Tech earned wins over three teams that are in the tournament: Bryan, Fisher, Madonna and Oklahoma City; however none of them are ranked teams. The Warriors faced Concordia (MI) four times and the Cardinals won each of the contests, included two in the WHAC tournament. A third WHAC team in the tournament seems highly unlikely.

17. Georgetown Tigers (29-22), Mid-South Conference

The Tigers don’t have a pretty record and won’t get a change to improve upon it, but they had a strong season. If Reinhardt and Cumberland make the opening round (both of which absolutely should), that would mean that 12 of their first 13 games this season were against teams in the tournament. In those games they went 11-2. They also won two from Point Park, beat Cumberlands and Bryan, and played against Union and Cumberland.

18. Oregon Tech (33-19), Cascade Conference

The Owls tied for first in the Cascade Conference, matched the school scored for wins in a season, went 4-2 against Lewis-Clark State and earned a win at Westmont. Geographically Tech was forced to play Bushnell seven times, Corban eight times and Eastern Oregon (who had a 3-39 record) four times. They went 4-5 against co-CCC leader British Columbia with the season series deciding loss being for the conference’s auto-bid. The CCC is not going to get a third invite to the tournament which necessitates them winning the conference since Lewis-Clark State get automatic entry into the opening round.

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