The bracket is finalized and the 2022 DII women’s basketball tournament is set to tip off Friday, March 11. Before the first ball is tipped, let’s take a dive into the bracket and see if we can predict some winners.
How much does seeding play into a team making it to the DII women’s Elite Eight? One thing is for certain: A team’s likelihood of advancing is against it if it is a No. 5, No. 6 or No. 8 seed. Going through the past five DII women’s basketball tournaments, not one team that was seeded No. 5, No. 6 or No. 8 advanced to the quarterfinals in any of those seasons. Surprisingly, No. 7 seeds have had a bit of success, with four advancing to the DII women’s Elite Eight over that span.
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Of those 40 teams to appear in the DII women’s Elite Eight the past five years, 14 have been No. 1 seeds and 13 have been No. 2 seeds. That’s just about three No. 1 seeds and nearly the same number of No. 2 seeds per year. That's 67.5 percent of the quarterfinal teams, so it is certainly advantageous to start as a better-seeded team. In fact, three of the past five championship games have featured a No. 1 versus a No. 2 seed.
So, if you're picking a bracket, be mindful of choosing too many upsets. But if you have a hankering for an upset special, focus on the No. 7 seeds. The only year a No. 7 seed didn’t make it to the DII women’s Elite Eight was 2021… because there were none. The 2021 tournament was played with a condensed bracket, and only six teams per region.
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If the bracket plays out as seeded, this regional final will be an interesting chess match. It would pit No. 2 seed Cal (PA) and its third-ranked scoring defense against No. 1 seed Glenville State and the top-scoring offense in DII. Glenville State lost a heartbreaker in the MEC finals — its first loss of the season — and that could fuel this team to the quarterfinals.
The Kutztown Golden Bears are a fun story in this part of the bracket. It is their first appearance since 1996. That dates back before every player on the current roster was born. They will have their hands full with upstart Charleston (WV), the only team to beat Glenville State this season.
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The Central will be a tough bracket to get through. Both the NSIC and MIAA runners-up square off in the first round, meaning one very good team is going home early. Freshman Lacy Stokes has led a huge turnaround, helping improve Missouri Southern from a nine-win team in 2021 to a 24-win team in 2022. Defensively, these two teams are pretty comparable, so the Nikki Kilboten (St. Cloud State) vs. Madi Stokes showdown inside will be the difference.
Southwestern Oklahoma State seems like a good pick here. The Bulldogs have won 14 in a row and blew through the competition. With experience and talent from players like Makyra Tramble and Bethany Franks, this will be a tough team to handle.
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This part of the bracket is quite interesting. Chestnut Hill plays Pace. Chestnut Hill didn’t play last year and improved from an 11-win season in 2020 to a 24-win team this season to earn its first-ever tournament bid. The Setters, on the other hand, are making their first appearance in a decade. This is anyone’s game.
Daemen is a very interesting team, streaking at the right time, but it's a No. 8 seed. History has not been kind to the worse-seeded team. We also know the chances of a No. 7 seed advancing to the DII women’s Elite Eight are fairly high. We are looking at a part of the bracket where only one team in the top four seeds won its conference. This is as wide open as it gets. Let’s pencil in Pace as our sneaky No. 7 seed to advance.
This is the pre-championship region. Ashland, Grand Valley State and Drury are top-10 teams and Walsh, Southern Indiana and UMSL are all top-25 contenders. This part of the region is deep and loaded with tournament experience. Trying to find the advantage one team has over the other is like finding a needle in the haystack.
Ashland is so incredibly talented, and with two players like Annie Roshak and Karlee Pireu leading the way it’s fair to think the Eagles are the team to beat. That Grand Valley State defense is the best in DII, and you know what they say about defenses and championships. And then there is Drury, a team that has its best player back and healthy, and swept through its conference tournament by an average of 30.5 points per victory. The way Drury is coming together now makes it seem like the Panthers advance. Whichever team does is my choice for national champion.
This is another deep part of the bracket. No. 6 seed Benedict may be the trickiest No. 6 seed in the tournament. Ay’Anna Bey is as tough a player as there is in the division, and you are unlikely to shoot very well or to out-rebound this team. Of course, Tampa, Eckerd and Florida Southern made the SSC a fun battle this year, and all three are oozing with the talent and grit needed this time of year.
Union (TN) is simply on fire. The Bulldogs lost to Drury on Nov. 24 and haven’t lost since. That’s 23 in a row and most of the games weren’t very close. This team can score — all five starters average at least nine points per game — and they can defend, winning their games by more than 15 a night. Right now, it seems like the South is Bulldogs country.
The Peach Belt Conference makes up half of this bracket… which is just no help at all in making projections. North Georgia seems to have the edge, defeating Lander and Columbus State without a loss this year, but splitting with Georgia Southwestern. However, the Nighthawks have a tough draw; it will be the third time they have to face Columbus State in less than a month, and despite winning the first two, winning all three in that small of a window is no easy task.
All that is to say that this is still North Georgia’s region to lose. Julianne Sutton and Caroline Martin are as good a 1-2 punch as you’ll find in the tournament. It won’t be easy, but North Georgia makes it out of the Southeast.
Lubbock Christian, the two-time defending champion, is the No. 3 seed. The Chaps looked like they were getting it in gear, finishing the season on a 10-2 run… but both losses came at the hands of No. 1-seeded West Texas A&M. Their first-round matchup is as intriguing as it gets. CSU Pueblo enters the tournament as a 23-win team — a 20-win improvement from last season. Talk about a complete turnaround.
The top four seeds are all from the Lone Star Conference, so they should know each other very well. That could play a large advantage to West Texas A&M, which has beaten both LCU and Texas A&M-Commerce twice in 2022. Of course, the Buffs' first-round matchup is against a team they lost to earlier this year in Colorado Mesa. That was a very different Buffs team, though, and the current variation is a tough one to beat.
Yet another nearly impossible pick, as the top six seeds are all capable of taking this one. We will be treated to a Western Washington versus Alaska Anchorage first-round game, and the Vikings versus Seawolves has become a nice conference and region rivalry over the past several years. Whichever team escapes will have a lot of momentum.
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The winner will play Central Washington. The Wildcats avenged February losses to both Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington by beating both in back-to-back days to claim the GNAC tournament. It will be tough to beat either again, but as I said on the selection show, Samantha Bowman is an advantage for Central Washington. She is a true center that utterly dominates the paint. In an era of “going small," she provides a defensive advantage down low. How big an advantage, you ask? She had 52 rebounds in the three-game GNAC tournament, 27 of which were defensive. That is a lot of second-chance points Central Washington is keeping from its opponents.
DII Women’s Elite Eight
So, how do the seeds break down? We have four No. 1 seeds (Glenville State, Union, North Georgia and West Texas A&M), two No. 2 seeds (Central Washington and Southwestern Oklahoma State), a No. 3 seed in Drury and our lucky No. 7 in Pace. Historically speaking, that seems to fit in with recent trends.
Now, once the final eight get to Birmingham, Ala., they are re-seeded. So all the predictions below are based on getting the seeding correct, which is a prediction in itself.
- No. 1 Glenville State
- No. 2 Drury
- No. 3 West Texas A&M
- No. 4 North Georgia
- No. 5 Union
- No. 6 Southwestern Oklahoma State
- No. 7 Central Washington
- No. 8 Pace
My complete tournament predictions are below.