March. A time to expect the unexpected in DII women's basketball. The 64-team field has been announced and now the fun begins. Let's take a stab at predicting the entire DII women's basketball championship tournament, shall we?
There is certainly a bit of a pattern forming in the DII women's basketball championship. Despite what the metrics say, if you have read any of my bracket predictions since I started in 2017, you know I am keen on history. For example, in last year's bracket prediction before the 2022 tournament I said, "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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Sure enough, in 2022, nary a No. 5, No. 6, nor No. 8 seed advanced, but seven seeds? Well, there were three in the 2022 DII women's Elite Eight. Another interesting note, however: Looking back at those six same tournaments, of the six eventual national champions, four began their journeys as No. 1 seeds in their region, while one No. 2 seed and one No. 3 seed won. So, while there may be some fun surprises along the way to the DII Elite Eight, when it comes to crowning a champion, recent history shows the best — or at least highest seeded — teams win.
So, where do the upsets happen this year?
CONFERENCE CHAMPS: Every automatic bid to the DII tournament
Every game in the DII women’s basketball championship bracket, predicted
Team to beat: Glenville State. It's been an impressive run, considering the Pioneers lost the entire starting five and most key reserves from last year's national championship run. Head coach Kim Stephens has built a program that attracts the perfect blend of talent for their aggressive style on both ends of the floor.
Team to watch: Shippensburg. It's been a while since the Raiders went dancing. Ariel Jones is about to finish her career as one of the best scorers of all time and she's finally going to get a chance to showcase that in the national tournament.
Most likely upset: Charleston (WV) over Gannon. Gannon is building an impressive program, but there's just something about Charleston, maybe how well it has played Glenville State at times, that feels like it can stun the Golden Knights in the first round.
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Team to beat: Minnesota Duluth. This is a deep region, and it won't be an easy task for anyone, but the Bulldogs are rolling and have quite the resume. They also have one of the best players in the division in Brooke Olson. Minnesota Duluth is on a nine-game winning streak and beat both Augustana (SD) and Minnesota State to win the NSIC title, so the Bulldogs are tested.
Team to watch: Missouri Southern. The Lions are winners of six in a row, defeating Pittsburg State, Nebraska-Kearney and Central Missouri — three DII women's basketball championship teams — to lock up the three seed. That's quite a bit of momentum.
Most likely upset: None. Or all, depending on how you look at it. Like I said, this region is deep, and we could see a first round of all upsets, or the top teams take care of business.
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Team to beat: Bentley. I think the Falcons have a lot of momentum, which is huge. They have lost just once since the calendar turned to February and are the NE10 champs. In this up-for-grabs region, why not?
Team to watch: Assumption. They are the No. 1 team for a reason. But Dominican (NY) is riding high off that CACC championship. Should they sneak by the Chargers, the Greyhounds would need to face Le Moyne or Bentley in the next round. That's a very tough road to the East finals.
Most likely upset: Daemen over Jefferson in the first round. Last year, Daemen made it to the regional finals as an eight seed. The year before the Wildcats went to the Elite Eight. This team wins comes March.
CINDERELLA SEASON: 7 teams ready to shake things up this March
Team to beat: Ashland. There have been four undefeated national champions over the past decade and Ashland is one of them. This roster is as good as any Ashland has had and is certainly lined up to do so. If the Eagles advance from a region that has Drury, Grand Valley State and Michigan Tech, well, the DII Elite Eight may be easy for them. This team seemingly doesn't have a flaw.
Team to watch: Honestly, all of the Big Three. Sit back and enjoy Ashland, Drury and Grand Valley State. Maybe Michigan Tech can take one of these three DII women's basketball titans down, but I just don't think either loses until they face one another. And you can be sure those will be some of the best games of the tournament.
Most likely upset: Trevecca Nazarene. This team seems to have a little bit of destiny on its side. Its just unfortunately in a region that boasts four of the best teams in the country. Still, this turnaround from 5-wins to a team that made it all the way to its conference championship game has been fun to watch. Maybe they sneak in a few more wins.
Team to beat: Tampa. The Spartans are 30-1, have one of the best players in DII women's basketball in Sydney Kin, and are on a 19-game winning streak so have a ton of momentum. Most importantly, they have the SSC's best scoring defense and as they say defense wins... oh, you know.
Team to watch: Eckerd. The Tritons are 24-5 against the second-toughest schedule in DII women's basketball and took Tampa to overtime the last time the two met. They are a No. 1 seed in several other regions in my opinion. They also have the second-best offense and defense in the SSC, and that's a nice balance.
Most likely upset: I don't really foresee any upsets in this part of the bracket. Perhaps Lynn could beat Lee, but the Knights win over Eckerd was their first over a nationally ranked opponent this season.
FAQ: How the DII women's basketball championship tournament works
South Central Region
Team to beat: Angelo State. What a battle for the Rambelles in LSC finals. They came back from a 15-point second-half deficit to win yet another tournament title. This team has four very talented scorers as well, so don't need to rely on anyone player. Having Tayjanna McGhee-Pleasant and Sawyer Lloyd each averaging almost a double double per game doesn't hurt.
Team to watch: Regis. Why not the Rangers? Regis won its first RMAC tourney since 2007 and are riding a nine-game winning streak into the DII tournament. The improvement from 12-win team to 25-win team gives them Cinderella appeal as well.
Most likely upset: Lubbock Christian. Look, I love the Texas Woman's story and the Pioneers just absolutely smoked the Chaps in the LSC tournament, so people probably think I am nuts. But have you happened to see Lubbock Christian's track record in the postseason? It's not too shabby, plus the Chaps are that pesky seven seed, PLUS it's really hard to beat a team three times in the same season.
Team to beat: Catawba. This part of the bracket should be very competitive, and despite a loss in the SAC semifinals, Catawba gets the nod as the team to beat as the No. 1 seed. Catawba was on a tear until that semis loss, winners of 10 in a row and have quite the leader in SAC player of the year Lyrik Thorne.
Team to watch: Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears were 11-15 last year and improved to 24-7 this year and won the SAC beating aforementioned Catawba. Seems like a Cinderella waiting to happen.
Most likely upset: North Georgia. The Nighthawks last three trips to the DII tourney (2022, 2019, 2018) have seen them win at least two games and reach the regional finals, if not the DII Elite Eight. I know rosters change in college sports, but remember, I like history and that is one heck of a tournament history.
Team to beat: Western Washington. The Vikings are the defending West Region champs and national runners-up. They followed that up with a 24-3 season and look to be chugging along, avenging earlier losses to Montana State Billings to win the GNAC. And that's what makes this interesting: MSU Billings is responsible for two of the three Vikings' losses and could be a potential opponent.
Team to watch: Cal State Dominguez Hills. Yes, the Toros lost in the conference finals, but let's be real. Cal State San Marcos has been knocking on the door for years and is an experienced and very good ball team. That said, the Toros were a 13-win team a year ago and are now hosting a regional. I'm certainly watching unfolds.
Most likely upset: Central Washington. Samantha Bowman. Bowman is fourth in DII women's basketball in scoring (22.2 points per game) and leads the division in rebounding. Cal State San Marcos is going to be very tough, especially on the high of winning the CCAA tourney, but Bowman is that special talent that may make an upset happen.
The bracket, filled
Remember, when the regional champs make it to the DII Women's Elite Eight, the eight teams are given a national seed for the final mini-tournament. I went as far as predicting what I think the DII Women's Elite Eight seeds will look like and how they play out. If you're curious of my picks, tap here to see it or take a look below.