By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Press Book | Live Stats | Live Video) The 23rd annual NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by State Farm, tips off Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center. The Sioux City Convention and Tourism Bureau is hosting the event for the 17th-straight year – the longest consecutive tenure of any current national championship host – with 31 games being played over seven days, ending with the championship final Tuesday, March 18 at 7:05 p.m. CST.
The championship’s opening contest features Concordia (Neb.) (25-7), which earned an at-large berth out of the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), against Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Tournament champions Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) (22-10) at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The first three days will see eight games each. Quarterfinal action tips off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, with the semifinals slated for Monday, March 17 at 6 p.m. at 8 p.m. Both semifinal games and the championship final on March 18 will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Twenty-two teams return from the 2013 field, including all four 2013 semifinalists in Davenport (Mich.), Indiana Wesleyan, Northwestern (Iowa) and Morningside (Iowa).
Ashford (Iowa) is the only team making its first-ever appearance at this year’s national championship. The Saints received an automatic berth out of the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) after knocking off IU Northwest (Ind.), 67-57, in the A.I.I. Tournament final.
Top-ranked Saint Francis (Ind.) headlines the field as the only remaining unbeaten team in NAIA Division II women’s basketball at 33-0. The Cougars, who open action at noon on Wednesday against Ashford (Iowa), are the first team to enter the national championship without a loss since Davenport in 2011. Saint Francis is making its 15th all-time appearance and boasts a 24-14 all-time record at the event, including a runner-up finish in 1999.
If Saint Francis were to take home the banner this season, the Cougars would be the first team since Morningside in 2009 to go unbeaten en route to the title.
Defending national champion Indiana Wesleyan returns to the field for the 12-straight year after finishing second to Saint Francis in the Crossroads League Tournament title game. The Wildcats are vying to become the fifth team in NAIA history to repeat as national champions. Indiana Wesleyan is the No. 3 seed in their quarter of the bracket and plays Oklahoma Wesleyan on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The Wildcats enter the championship with a 23-9 all-time record at the event.
Perennial powerhouse Northwestern comes to Sioux City as the most decorated team in the field. The Red Raiders, who qualified as the GPAC regular-season and tournament champions, own a championship-best 42 wins and five national titles in 12 previous appearances. GPAC rivals Hastings (Neb.) (2002, 2003 and 2006) and Morningside (2004, 2005 and 2009), along with Indiana Wesleyan (2007 and 2013) are the only other squads at this year’s event with at least one national title.
Eleven teams have made at-least 10 appearances at the national championship, led by College of the Ozark’s (Mo.) 20 trips. The Bobcats, who qualified as the 10th at-large, own a 31-19 national championship record, including four runner-up finishes – 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2012. In addition to College of the Ozarks, Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) (18) and Saint Francis (15) have made 15-or-more appearances.
For the second-straight year, the CCAC placed the most programs in the field of any conference with five squads – Cardinal Stritch, Olivet Nazarene, Purdue Calumet (Ind.), Roosevelt (Ill.) and Saint Xavier (Ill.).
NeuLion, the NAIA’s official video streaming company of 17 select NAIA National Championship events, will be broadcasting the first 28 games from Sioux City. An all-tournament pass (28 games) is available for $29.95, while a single day pass can be purchased for $9.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.
For more information on the 2013 State Farm-NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship, click here.