Entering the 2019 DII women’s basketball championship, we looked back at seven years of brackets to see if we could predict the future based on historical trends and patterns.
Well, we will own it. It wasn’t a very successful attempt. But to be fair, this is a unique DII Women’s Elite Eight, as it’s the first time in that seven-year window that only one No. 1 seed made it. In fact, we went all the way back to 2003 and there was not one national quarterfinals field with less than two No. 1 regional seeds.
This is an Elite Eight field like no other. A field usually dominated by No. 1 and 2 seeds sees five teams that were Nos. 3-7 seeds.
So, is there anything past Elite Eights can tell us about who may win the 2019 DII women’s basketball tournament? Let's take a look.
There’s a good chance Drury moves on based on the numbers
When we picked our original bracket, we took a look at the success rate of seeds reaching the Elite Eight. An overwhelming 50 percent of regional one seeds made their presence felt in the quarterfinals since 2012, leading us to believe an amount close to or possibly more than that could replicate itself in 2019, especially after five No. 1 seeds made it in last year.
That’s neither here nor there. What is important to know is that there hasn’t been a national semifinal in our seven years of data without a No. 1 seed. We went back even further, scouring brackets as far back as the 2003 season, and only one semifinal had nary a No. 1 seed. That was in 2006 when two No. 3 seeds — American International and St. Cloud State — shared the spotlight with two No. 2 seeds: Grand Valley State and Chico State.
Of the 28 teams to play in the national semifinals since 2012 an incredible 16 of them have started as the No. 1 seed in their respective region. You have to like the odds that Drury advances based on historical data, but how about the rest of the seeds in the semifinals?
|Seed||Teams to the semifinals||Percentage|
The odds sure looked stacked against No. 4 Azusa Pacific, don’t they? But keep in mind, the Cougars are only the fourth No. 4 seed to reach the Elite Eight since 2012, a seed that averaged one team in the quarterfinals over the five years prior, so the chances were reasonably lower. The No. 7 seeds seem to be surging the past few years, but the two this year —Nova Southeastern and St. Anselm — have two of the toughest draws remaining in the tournament in No. 1 Drury and No. 2 Southwestern Oklahoma State respectively.
Seeding the Elite Eight
In 2017, the Elite Eight was seeded No. 1 through No. 8 in the quarterfinals. In those two years, the top seed — both years it was Ashland — not only won its first game but made it to the finals. In both of those seasons, the No. 1 seed played the No. 6 seed. In 2017, No. 1 Ashland won, and last year, No. 6 Central Missouri took home the hardware.
So, what does that mean? It means that despite Azusa Pacific coming out of its region a dreaded No. 4 seed in unfriendly territory, the Cougars are now seeded the favorable No. 6 in the Elite Eight. Based on recent history, the Cougars actually do have a solid chance of making the championship game. Wrap your head around that.
Southwestern Oklahoma is the No. 2 seed, so it's certainly fair to think the Lady Bulldogs have the best shot at advancing to the championship game, despite the fact that it hasn't happened in the current format. They also have a bit of history on their side. They are just the second Great American Conference team to make the Elite Eight. The first was Harding two years back. The Bison won their quarterfinals game but bowed out to Ashland in the semifinals.
But wait, there's more...
The national championship
We already know that regional No. 1 seeds dominate the semifinals. But how do they do in the national championship game?
Since 2012, the national champion has been a regional No. 1 or No. 2 seed. That’s it. No. 2-seeded Shaw defeated No. 1 Ashland in 2012 and No. 2-seeded Central Missouri defeated No. 1 Ashland last year. All the rest in between — Ashland twice, Bentley, California (Pa), and Lubbock Christian — came out of their regions as the No. 1 seeds.
Over that same span, we have seen three 1 vs. 2 regional seed matchups, two 1 vs. 3 matchups, and one 1 vs. 1 when tournament heavyweights Bentley and West Texas A&M went head-to-head. The one extreme outlier was in 2015 when Cal Baptist came out of the West Region as a five seed and found its way to the finals against No. 1 California (Pa).
So that would put history well on to Drury’s side. And sure helps out Southwestern Oklahoma and North Georgia's chances, both No. 2 seeds. Indiana (Pa) — which reached the semifinals last year — and Lubbock Christian — an Elite Eight regular — have to like its chances as the three seed as well.
But, let's expand out bracket knowledge back to 2003. In the 16 NCAA DII tournaments since then, only two national champions came out of their region lower than a No. 2 seed. It first happened in 2008 when Northern Kentucky defeated No. 1 seed South Dakota and then again two years later when Emporia State defeated No. 1 Fort Lewis.
#PacWestWBB NCAA Regional Final | The celebration continues for @APUWBB1, which is heading to the Elite Eight after beating a second-consecutive top-10 team in the nation to win the West Regional Championship. pic.twitter.com/gIcoB2xS0q— PacWest Conference (@ThePacWest) March 19, 2019
This probably doesn't come as a surprise, but both of those champions were four seeds. Somehow, we keep coming back to Azusa Pacific.
Only one undefeated team, Florida Gulf Coast in 2007, entered the championship game undefeated since 2003 and lost, while three undefeated teams have sealed the deal, all of which occurred within the last six years. It seems like Drury has history in its favor, but as we learn every March, the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.