NAIA Tournament: Montana Tech to battle Westmont tonight
Tonight is going to be epic.
For the first time in Montana Tech basketball history, the Orediggers will host first and second-round NAIA National Tournament games here in Butte.
This will be the second year in a row the Orediggers, under head coach Adam Hiatt, have made the National Tournament, and the 4th time in program history they have had their dance card punched into the big dance.
Last year Montana Tech was able to get its first tournament win over Mid-America Christian in the first round, before falling to host SAGU in the second round. That team from a year ago set several new school records and left the bar awfully high for this year’s team.
Montana Tech had to replace 4 of their 5 starters from that team that registered the first NAIA Tournament win in school history a year ago. The Orediggers finished with a school record 27 wins last year. The Frontier Conference regular season and tournament champions will start this years National Tournament with 26 wins to their credit. As stated earlier, this will be the second consecutive season the Orediggers have made the National Tournament. They also made the tournament in 1998 and 1999 consecutively. In the ‘98 season, the Orediggers lost to Biola in the first round 61-54, and the next year they fell to Union, TN 58-45. Every year under coach Adam Hiatt, Montana Tech has made significant progress, from 1 win in his first season to the school’s first win at the NAIA National Tournament, a year ago.
Tech hasn’t lost a game on their home floor in 2 seasons, and the Diggs would love to keep that streak alive tonight and tomorrow.
Montana Tech is led by Frontier Conference MVP Caleb Bellach averaging 19 points a game. Frontier Conference newcomer of the year, Asa Williams is averaging 13 a game, and Michael Ure is also averaging in double digits at 11 points a contest.
The Orediggers have 3 real strengths, they take care of the ball, only giving up 8 turnovers a game (leads the nation). They play outstanding team defense, and (for me) the big one is their bench. Coach Adam Hiatt has built an incredible bench, and everyone on that bench knows their role. That bench has won them games all season long, most recently against Rocky in the Frontier Tournament, and I think it will pay dividends here in the National Tournament.
The Warriors of Westmont California are playing their last season as a member of the NAIA, as they will be transitioning to NCAA Div. II beginning next season. Westmont will be making its 23rd appearance at the National Tournament and its first trip back since 2019. They have compiled a 21-21 record at the National Tournament in 22 trips thus far. The Warriors made a huge push to get here, winning five straight games at the end of the season to earn an at-large bid out of the Golden State Athletic Conference.
You can read more on the Warriors of Westmont HERE>
Montana Tech will host Westmont tonight in the first round of the NAIA tournament, with tipoff scheduled for 7 pm in the HPER on the campus of Montana Tech. You can watch the game on the Montana Tech YouTube channel.