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8th-ranked SOU men draw No. 2 seed for NAIA tourney

ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon men’s basketball team is back in the NAIA Division II National Tournament field after a three-year absence, heading to Sioux Falls, S.D., to face Montreat (N.C.) at 7:15 a.m. Pacific Time next Wednesday.

The 32-team field was unveiled Wednesday by the national office, and SOU (23-7 overall) clinched an automatic berth Tuesday — by virtue of finishing second in the Cascade Conference regular-season standings — when Oregon Tech fell at College of Idaho in the CCC Tournament championship game.

The Raiders were No. 8 in Wednesday’s final Top 25 coaches’ poll, swapping spots with No. 7 Oregon Tech after the Owls defeated them in Saturday’s semifinals. They’ll enter the tournament with a top-10 ranking for the first time since 1999.

College of Idaho will have the No. 1 overall seed at the Sanford Pentagon, where the tournament is set to play out March 11-17.

The Raiders are the No. 2 seed in the Liston quadrant of the bracket and Montreat is No. 7. The matchup between the teams will be the first.

The Cavaliers have compiled a record of 24-8 and finished second to Union (Ky.) in the Appalachian Athletic Conference with a 17-7 mark. They’re in the field for the second year in a row, having lost in the Round of 32 last season to Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio).

Montreat posts 88.2 points per game, the seventh-highest clip nationally, behind guard Austin Butler, who averages 21.9. The 6-foot-5 senior is No. 2 on the NAIA leaderboard in 3-point makes per game (4.0), and 6-5 forward JaJa Davis throws in 15.7 points and 8.2 rebounds.

The Cavaliers’ beefy frontcourt helps them to 13.3 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks ninth nationally.

They’re in the tournament for the fourth time overall and scored their only win in 2006.

The Raiders are making their ninth appearance, and their fourth in the last eight seasons. They’ve twice reached the national quarterfinals — in 2005 and ‘15 — and were bounced in the first round in their last appearance (‘16) by Mount Mercy (Iowa).

Wednesday’s winner will play at 6:30 a.m. on March 13 against 10th-ranked Holy Cross (Ind.) or No. 24 Indiana Tech.