SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Press Book – PDF) (Bracket - PDF) Wednesday starts the 26th annual NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The single-elimination tournament, which features 22 automatic-berths and 10 at-large bids, runs through March 14 when a national champion will be crowned.
The NAIA Network – the association’s official video streaming home – will video-stream the first 28 games live leading up to the semifinals and final on ESPN3. The video platform, powered by Stretch Internet, allows users access to live video, statistics, and social interaction on a number of devices, including mobile. Single day passes can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-tournament package is available at $29.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.
The first tip on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. CSTpairs No. 2 seeded Davenport (Mich.) (30-3) against No. 7 and 18-15 Saint Francis (Ind.). Davenport, making its 13th appearance, looks to advance over the 2014 national champion Cougars, who are making their 17th trip.
St. Francis (Ill.) heads into this year’s field as the No. 1 overall program, boasting a near perfect 31-1 record. The lone loss for the Fighting Saints came in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship at the hands of Saint Xavier (Ill.). The Fighting Saints’ first match-up this championship will be primetime at 5:15 p.m. CST Wednesday when they take on No. 8 UC Merced (Calif.), - the California Pacific Athletic Conference tournament champion.
Only IU Kokomo (Ind.) is making its first-ever appearance in the field of 32. The Cougars earned an automatic berth out of the River States Conference and hold a 21-12 overall record. IU Kokomo earned a No. 8 seed and squares off against No. 1 Saint Xavier in its first-ever national championship game. Indiana Tech, a four seed, snaps a 22-year drought of missing out on the event. The Warriors earned an at-large berth and went 25-7 on the year. Indiana Tech meets up with No. 5 Tabor (Kan.) for its first match.
Five programs in the field already own a red banner, with Northwestern (Iowa) boasting a field-high five national championships. Morningside (Iowa) (4), Hastings (Neb.) (3), Marian (Ind.) (1) and Saint Francis (1) are the other schools who have earned the crown.
The 2015 national champion is back for another year, as Marian (Ind.) earned its first-ever No. 1 seed. Last season, the Knights earned a No. 3 seed and defeated No. 1 Southern Oregon, 59-48. Looking to this year, the Knights take on a high-shooting squad in No. 8 Olivet Nazarene (Ill.). The Tigers, who earned an at-large berth, average an NAIA-best 111.7 points per game.
In all, 22 programs are back from the 2016 field in hopes of extended their seasons even longer.
Southeastern (Fla.), a No. 2 seed the Liston Bracket, is the only undefeated team in the field this season at 26-0. The Sun Conference tournament champion earned an automatic-berth to this year’s event and takes on No. 7 Valley City State (N.D.) out of the North Star Athletic Association.
Looking at individual players to watch, Shann Sellers of Friends (Kan.) looks to bring her strong regular-season showing to Sioux City. Sellers, a two-time NAIA National Player of the Week, leads the Division II in both points per game (24.7) and steals per game (6.6). Sellers and her Falcon teammates open up their bracket-play with a rematch from earlier in the season against No. 5 Hastings.
Five of the top ten scorers in the league will be on display this week, including Kara Krolicki of Saint Xavier (21.9), Cassidy Deno from Purdue Northwest (Ind.) (20.6), Nicki Monahan of IU Northwest (Ind.) (20.2) and April Watson from Siena Heights (Mich.) (19.4).
For more information on the National Championship, click here.