NATCHITOCHES - Northwestern State, the nation's top-scoring team, heads cross country to upstate New York to play a fast-paced Niagara team on Feb. 23 in the 11th Ramada Worldwide Bracketbusters on ESPN3, ESPN announced Monday night.
The Demons (14-6) and Purple Eagles (14-9) will be in one of 13 games televised on the ESPN platform as part of the Bracketbusters, with another 48 non-conference matchups not on TV created as a result of the participation of 13 Division I conferences. The teams will tip off at 3:03 EST at Niagara's 2,100-seat "Taps" Gallagher Center, built in 1949.
Northwestern, which brings a four-game winning streak into Thursday night's home game against Oral Roberts, leads the country with an 83.9 scoring average. Niagara ranks 36th at 75.4 points per game.
Sophomore guard Antoine Mason, son of former NBA All-Star Anthony Mason, leads the Purple Eagles with an 18.9 scoring average that is 31st nationally. Another sophomore guard, Juan'ya Green, is averaging 16.7 points along with 5.2 assists, 51st in the country, and 1.9 steals, 76th nationally.
Niagara has five players with 25 or more 3-point baskets, all shooting 30 percent or better. The Purple Eagles are 10th in the country in turnover margin (plus 4.3) and 29th in fewest turnovers per game (11.5) among eight NCAA top 100 team statistical rankings.
Joe Mihalich, in his 14th season as head coach, has guided Niagara to a pair of NCAA Tournament berths, the last in 2007, and two NIT appearances.
Niagara has a rich basketball tradition with former NBA head coaches Hubie Brown and Frank Layden having played there, along with NBA All-Star and NCAA scoring champion Calvin Murphy.
The Demons have 11 top 100 NCAA team stat rankings, including 10th in steals (9.7 per game), 15th in blocks (5.5 pg) and 20th in assists (16.1 pg). Sophomore point guard Jalan West is 12th nationally in steals (2.5 pg), 23rd in assist-turnover ratio (plus 2.63) and 46th in assists (5.3 pg). Junior forward DeQuan Hicks, whose 15.1 scoring average tops NSU, is 22nd in the country with his 57.1 percent shooting aim as the Demons rank 59th as a team in shooting accuracy (45.8 percent).
Niagara will return the game and play at Northwestern in 2013-14. Northwestern has been involved in intersectional home-and-home series with Utah State, Tennessee Tech and Campbell in previous Bracketbusters pairings, making ESPNU at Utah State in 2006 in a last-second loss, but pounding the Aggies in Natchitoches to open the 2006-07 season.
Southland Conference co-leader Stephen F. Austin was also included in the 13 ESPN broadcasts, playing at Long Beach State in a game that will be televised by ESPNU at 8 p.m. on Feb. 22.
The other Southland teams and matchups for the weekend event were McNeese at Toledo, Oral Roberts hosting Weber State, Sam Houston State at Eastern Washington, Southeastern Louisiana at Winthrop, SIU-Edwardsville at Central Arkansas, Cal State Fullerton at A&M-Corpus Christi, Nicholls at former SLC member Texas-San Antonio, and Lamar hosting former league rival Texas State.