Gold Rush earn No. 3 seed, No. 10 ranking and will play Clarke (Iowa) the morning of March 18

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana men’s basketball, an automatic qualifier for next week’s NAIA Division I National Championship tournament, will play Clarke University in the opening round at 10:45 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, March 18, at Municipal Arena (formerly Municipal Auditorium) in Kansas City, Mo.

The NAIA announced the 32-team field, seeds and pairings Wednesday evening. The NAIA also announced that tournament attendance will be limited to only essential staff and limited family members because of widespread health risks involving COVID-19.

The NAIA also announced Wednesday its final coaches poll. XULA made the biggest climb, from 15th to 10th. It’s the highest Gold Rush ranking since 10th on Feb. 7, 2011. XULA earned one of the tournament’s four No. 3 seeds, and Clarke is a No. 6 seed.

XULA (27-6) won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships. Its 78-75 home victory Sunday against Tougaloo was XULA’s first GCAC Tournament title since 1996. The victory also earned for XULA the GCAC’s automatic bid to nationals. This will be XULA’s 19th appearance at NAIA nationals, the second in three years and the 12th in the last 16 seasons.

Clarke (24-9) also is an automatic qualifier, having earned the second bid from the Heart of America Athletic Conference. The Pride finished second to William Penn in the Heart regular season and tournament. This is Clarke’s first-ever appearance at nationals. The Pride are ranked 22nd.

In the only previous meeting between these schools, XULA defeated Clarke 81-51 on Dec. 29, 1997.

XULA will seek its first victory at nationals since 2007 and its second since 1973.

The XULA-Clarke winner will play Westmont or Stillman at 9 a.m. March 20 in the round of 16. The tournament will conclude March 24.

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