DII Women's Basketball Championship: What to expect from the Elite Eight
The DII women's basketball quarterfinals are set to begin Tuesday, March 21, in Columbus, Ohio, and by Friday, a new champion will be crowned.
Here is a quick look at what to expect during Tuesday's quarterfinal action:
No. 3 Columbus State vs. No. 6 Virginia Union (Noon ET Tuesday)
Coach: Anita Howard, 31-1 in first season
Key win: A 62-51 victory over USC Aiken on Feb. 25 in the quarterfinals of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. The Cougars avenged their only loss of the season. Since falling to USC Aiken on Jan. 7, Columbus State has won 22 straight.
Players to watch: Junior forward Alexis Carter is averaging 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds. Senior forward Ashley Asouzu is averaging 14.5 points and 9.3 rebounds. Senior guard Britteny Tatum is averaging 12.3 points and 3.3 rebounds.
Notes: Columbus State hosted regional for the second time in school history. This is the third trip to the Elite Eight for the Cougars. This is the 10th time Columbus State has played in the NCAA Tournament and fourth year in a row. Columbus State is 14-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: AnnMarie Gilbert, 54-7 in two seasons
Key win: A 66-58 victory over Wheeling Jesuit in the Atlantic Regional quarterfinals on March 10. The Panthers entered regional losing three of their last five games. They responded when they entered the portion of the season that a loss would end their season.
Players to watch: Junior guard Brittany Jackson is averaging 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds. Senior forward Lady Walker is averaging 14.4 points and 11.2 rebounds and sophomore guard Rejoice Spivey leads the team with 110 assists.
Notes: This is the second straight trip to the Elite Eight for Virginia Union. Last year, the Panthers lost a heartbreaker in the quarterfinals, falling 53-52 to Bentley.
No. 2 California Baptist vs. No. 7 West Florida (2:30 p.m. Tuesday)
Coach: Jarrod Olson, 133-30 in fifth season
Key win: After losing two out of three games in mid-November, California Baptist beat Cal State San Bernardino 91-73 on November 17, which was the start of a program record of 31 straight victories.
Players to watch: Senior guard Cassidy Mihalko ranks fifth in Division II in made field goals with 247. Earlier this season, she went over the 2,000-point milestone. Senior point guard Kamille Diaz is averaging 6.3 assists and 14.5 points. She ranks third in Division II in assists with 221.
Notes: The Lancers are making their second trip to the Elite Eight in the last three years. Two years ago, Cal Baptist lost in the national championship game to California (Pa.). It was an amazing run for the Lancers, who entered the NCAA Tournament unranked and with six losses.
Coach: Stephanie Lawrence Yelton, 90-57 in fifth season
Key win: After losing by two points in overtime, West Florida responded from the tough loss with a six-game winning streak that started with a 75-51 victory at North Alabama on Feb. 16. West Florida didn’t lose again until an overtime loss in the championship game of the Gulf South Tournament.
Players to watch: Junior forward Toni Brewer is averaging 13.8 points and 11.6 rebounds. Senior forward Katie Bobos is averaging 12.5 points and 10.4 rebounds and senior guard Alex Coyne leads the team with 235 assists.
Notes: West Florida is making its first trip to the Elite Eight. The Argonauts have won 11 more games than last year. This is their second 20-win season in the last three years.
No. 1 Ashland vs. No. 8 West Texas A&M (6 p.m. Tuesday)
Coach: Robyn Fralick, 65-2 in second season.
Key win: A 74-62 victory over Drury in the Midwest Regional championship game. Of course, every team’s win in the regional championship game is important because it gets the team to the Elite Eight. Ashland, though, knew this was a dangerous game. A year ago, Drury beat Ashland in the regional semifinal at Ashland. Drury was playing very well coming into this year’s game, but Ashland made sure history didn’t repeat.
Players to watch: Juniors forward Laina Snyder, 16.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and Andi Daugherty, 15.1, 5.8. Snyder and Daugherty already rank as two of the top six scorers in the program's history. Freshman guard Jodi Johnson, 11.9 points
Notes: Ashland is 18-5 in Division II postseason for a .783 winning percentage. The Eagles are the only undefeated team, women and men, in Division II. Ashland has five players averaging at least 11.1 points per game.
West Texas A&M
Coach: Kristen Mattio, 54-13 in second season
Key win: A 62-52 victory at No. 17 Eastern New Mexico State on Jan. 26. The Lady Buffs entered this game on their only two-game losing streak of the season. They needed to get back on track and they did with a high-quality road victory. They have only lost two games since the two-game losing streak.
Players to watch: Senior Alie Decker has 85 three-pointers this season, second most in the program’s history. She is eight three-pointers shy of tying the school record. Senior forward Maddison Wild ranks second in the program’s history in games played with 128. She will tie the record against Ashland.
Notes: West Texas is making its third trip to the Elite Eight in the last four years. They are 2-2 in the previous two trips. West Texas reached the national championship game in 2014, falling to Bentley. Overall, this is the seventh trip to the Elite Eight. West Texas is 35-22 in the Division II Tournament.
No. 4 Harding vs. No. 5 Queens (N.Y.) (8:30 p.m. Tuesday)
Coach: Tim Kirby, 240-110 in 12th season.
Key win: A 78-72 victory in double overtime at Ouachita Baptist on Jan. 14. It takes mental toughness to win an overtime road game. Those kinds of victories build confidence and give players a memory to lean on in tough postseason games.
Players to watch: Sophomore forward Caroline Hogue is averaging 13.4 points and 8.7 rebounds. Junior forward Sydney Layrock is averaging 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds and senior guard A’ndrea Haney leads the team in assists with 156.
Notes: First 30-win season for the program. This is the first trip to the Elite Eight for Harding. Harding overcame an 18-point, third-quarter deficit in the Central Regional championship game and beat Emporia State 58-56. Harding tied a school record this season, getting its 17th straight home win. Harding has won 24 of its last 25 games.
Coach: Elizabeth Naumovski, in sixth season, first coach in school program’s history to reach 100 career victories.
Key win: A 69-48 victory over Assumption in the East Regional quarterfinals on March 10. It showed that Knights were operating at a high level in postseason. On Nov. 27, Queens lost 67-59 at Assumption. The Knights won all three regional games by double digits.
Players to watch: Senior Madison Rowland has scored over 2,000 points, pulled down over 1,000 rebounds, 400 steals, 400 assists and 100 blocks. Senior MacKenzie Rowland was selected conference defensive player of the year. She also reached 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Notes: Queens set a school record for victories this season with 27. The previous mark was 24 in the 2008-09 season. This is the first time in the program’s history it has won 20 or more games for four straight seasons. Madison, MacKenzie and Merrick Rowland are sisters and have combined to average 42 points per game.