The 64-team 2019 DII women’s basketball championship field is set. It’s time to print your brackets, sit back and watch the excitement of the NCAA DII tournament unfold.
Before the tourney begins, let’s take a region-by-region look at what to watch.
Team to beat: Glenville State | Team to watch: Bowie State
What’s not to like about the Pioneers? Kim Stephens has Glenville State rolling, winners of 20 in a row and most often in dominating fashion. The Pioneers lead DII in scoring with 102.7 points per game helped in part by a DII-best 12.1 3-pointers per game.
Now, of course all eyes will always be on Indiana (Pa), California (Pa), and Virginia Union, all three of which have plenty of Elite Eight experience to go around the past few seasons. Bowie State makes for an interesting watch. Sure, the Bulldogs got bounced from the CIAA tournament early, but they have the best scoring defense in DII, allowing just 48.5 points per night. It will be interesting to see how that defense holds up against teams like IUP, Virginia Union and ultimately Glenville State if they have plans of a Cinderella run.
Team to beat: Southwestern Oklahoma State | Team to watch: Central Missouri
Fort Hays State is no slouch and is very deserving of its No. 1 seed, but aside from an opening night blip against the same Emporia State team they play in the first round, the Bulldogs have reeled off 30 straight wins and have a lot of momentum right now. Should it come down to it, you can be sure SWOSU seniors Hailey Tucker and Hayden Priddy — two of the best players in program history — will remember how last season’s magical run ended. If you don’t, here’s a refresher: it was at the hands of Fort Hays State, which could fuel the fire should they meet again.
Central Missouri has to be a team everyone in this bracket fears. The defending champs open up against a Lindenwood team they have beaten three times this season, which makes it a daunting task to move on in its own right. However, with a bevy of experience from last year’s national champions, should they get past the Lions, they can get rolling just like last season.
Team to beat: Bentley | Team to watch: Jefferson Rams
Bentley is the epitome of DII women's basketball tournament play. The Falcons are making their 35th appearance in the tournament, more than any other DII program, and that experience — especially from the savvy head coach Barbara Stevens — gives Bentley the edge in a region full of inexperience. Le Moyne, Jefferson and St. Thomas Aquinas are all making just its second appearance in the tournament.
It’s been an odd season for the Jefferson Rams. They ran all the way to February without a loss but still seemed to be overshadowed by a very impressive and talented USciences team. Though the Devils handed the Rams that first loss of the season, the Rams also downed USciences twice this season, including this past Sunday in an overtime thriller to win the CACC. It just feels like the Rams are coming into the tournament with something to prove on the big stage.
Team to beat: Drury | Team to watch: Every single one of them
If you have the opportunity to pick one region to watch in its entirety, it is the Midwest. Drury has no losses, is one of two undefeated teams in the field, and has a tremendous target on its back. We’ve tracked the Panthers run all season, and they may very well be the team to beat in Columbus, Ohio as well balanced as any in the nation.
Problem is, the Panthers play in the Midwest Region. We all know about Ashland, and so does Drury. Both Drury’s 2017 and 2018 seasons ended at the hands of Ashland in the Midwest Region championship. In 2016, the Panthers got past Ashland, but lost to Grand Valley State in the Midwest championship. Ashland — who opens up against a Northern Michigan team it just defeated to win yet another GLIAC title — has just two losses this season and both came at the hands of the Lakers. Have we even mentioned Jessica Kelliher looking to end her storied Lewis career in Cinderella fashion?
Got all that? The point is, these teams all know each other very well, especially come March.
UNDEFEATED TRACKER: How far will Drury and UCSD go?
Team to beat: West Texas A&M | Team to watch: Colorado Mesa
The Lady Buffs join the West Texas A&M men’s team as No. 1 seeds. Lexy Hightower is a DII women’s basketball star at this point and she’s looking to get back to her second Elite Eight in three years. They are rolling now, winners of 12 straight after wrapping up their second consecutive LSC title.
The Mavericks are the No. 2 seed but have a unique advantage. Thanks to the Buffs men’s team having to share hosting duties, Colorado Mesa gets to start the tournament at home. It was 16-0 at home this season, recently sweeping through the RMAC tournament at Brownson Arena. That said, keep an eye on another RMAC team as Westminster (UT) has some nice sleeper appeal.
Team to beat: Florida Southern | Team to watch: Lee
The Mocs are the team to beat as the No. 1 seed, but they better be careful. If you take a quick look at Lane’s record of 13-17 you may think this is a no-brainer, but the Dragons are fresh off their first-ever SIAC championship, which earned them a spot in their first NCAA tournament. Lane is playing with nothing to lose, and in the NCAA tournament, those are some of the most dangerous teams.
We called Lee a sleeper team for the tournament at the beginning of February. What have the Flames done since then? They just wrapped up their first Gulf South championship, so it seems like Lee has all the momentum rolling at the right time of the season. Keep your eyes on the Flames.
Team to beat: Anderson (SC) | Team to watch: Carson-Newman
We named the Trojans as one of our red-hot teams you don’t want to play in March and none of that has changed. Anderson has won 27 in a row allowing just 61.5 points per game behind one of the best rebounding margins in DII women’s basketball.
Carson-Newman is the team to watch here. This team made the Elite Eight last season and there are simply too many pieces in place from that run to overlook what the Eagles can do. They will have to face off against Lander in the first round, one of two Southeast teams — along with Wingate — we tabbed as tournament sleepers, so Carson-Newman has its work cut out for them.
Team to beat: UC San Diego | Team to watch: Hawaii Pacific
No one has beaten the Tritons yet, so they are certainly the team with the biggest target on their back in the West. But, much like Drury, this will be a tough bracket in which to remain perfect.
LET’S GO DANCING 💃 pic.twitter.com/FdVwhVH8r3— UCSD Athletics (@UCSDtritons) March 11, 2019
Alaska Anchorage is as much a tournament-ready team as any in the West, but it fell to a surging Northwest Nazarene team in the GNAC finals. The Nighthawks avenged its loss to the Seawolves just a few weeks earlier by holding Alaska Anchorage without a field goal for the final eight minutes on their way to their first GNAC title. But don’t sleep on Hawaii Pacific. The Sharks won their second straight PacWest title by defeating nationally ranked Azusa Pacific and could be charged for a nice run.