KANSAS CITY, MO. (March 11, 2020) – (Bracket) Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) returns for its ninth trip to nationals after receiving an At-Large bid to the 40th annual National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, presented by Visit Billings. The NAIA announced the qualifiers and bracket this evening for the event that will return to First Interstate Arena at Metra Park in Billings, Mont., March 18-24.
Head Coach Stacy Stephens said, "I am very excited about our opportunity at the NAIA National Tournament. It's the time of year everyone works to accomplish, and I am proud of our women for having this chance to prove what a talented group they are.
"This time of year is fun, because it is about who is willing to compete and sacrifice the most. It doesn't matter about previous stats, predictions or opinions - it matters which TEAM plays the hardest for 40 minutes."
This year's field consists of 14 automatic berths, 17 at-large selections and one host berth that Rocky Mountain will claim. Automatic qualification is given to conference regular-season champions, regular-season runners-up, tournament champions or tournament runners-up depending on the league. At-large teams were determined using the final regular-season Coaches' Top 25 poll released today, which can be found HERE. Note: Ties in the final regular-season poll were broken by a tie break procedure set by the National Administrative Council (NAC).
OLLU captured the Red River Athletic Conference regular season title and were the runners-up in the tournament title after losing to LSU-Shreveport.
The Saints' first trip to nationals was in 2012, when they fell to Oklahoma City University. The Saints' next played Rogers State University in 2013, followed by games against Talladega College and Loyola University in 2014. In 2015, OLLU played Martin Methodist College and Oklahoma Baptist University, followed by games against William Woods University and Benedictine College in 2016. In 2017, the Saints lost to The Master's University, and in 2018, they faced Loyola again in the first round. Last season, the Saints had their best finish ever as they outlasted Loyola, Wayland Baptist University and Campbellesville University before falling to Oklahoma City in the Fab Four round.
The Saints (26-6) are slated to play Clarke University (25-7) from Dubuque, Iowa. The Pride are making their second trip to nationals after falling to William Penn in the Heart of America Conference semifinals. Last year, Clarke advanced to the quarterfinals of nationals.
This will be the first matchup between OLLU and Clarke. The teams will play Wednesday, March 18, at 8:30 a.m. in the Cramer bracket.
The NAIA's No. 13-ranked Saints are tops in the NAIA in several statistical categories:
- Scoring offense/game (3,227/100.844)
- Scoring margin (29.00)
- Turnover margin (11.688)
- Field goal percentage (.469)
- Free-throw percentage (.802)
They are third in total rebound offense (1,425), steals/game (489/15.281); sixth in rebounds/game (44.531) and offensive rebounds/game (15.938); and eighth in assists (542). Kasey Saldana, the Saints' all-time leading scorer, is first in the NAIA in free-throw percentage (.926).
The NAIA's No. 20-ranked Pride are fifth in the NAIA in total rebound margin (8.750) and ninth in total rebound defense (33.031), while Makenna Haase is ninth in blocks (59).
- Campbellsville holds the longest active appearance streak in this year's field with 27 previous appearances as the Tigers will make their 28th appearance this year. Wayland Baptist follows with 26 previous appearances as the Flying Queens will make their 27th appearance this year.
- There are five teams that have won a national championship in this year's field: Oklahoma City, Freed-Hardeman, MidAmerican Nazarene, Montana Western, Vanguard and Westmont
- The only team in the field to win multiple and back-to-back titles in this year's field is Oklahoma City: 1999-2002, 2014-2015.
- The 2018-2019 Champion, Montana Western returns to the 2019-20 national championship looking for its second title.
- The champions from the last eight years are a part of this year's field: Oklahoma City, Westmont, MidAmerica Nazarene, Montana Western and Freed-Hardeman.
- All four of the 2018-2019 semifinalists return to the 2019-20 championship: Freed-Hardeman, Montana Western, Oklahoma City, Our Lady of the Lake
- There are 23 teams that competed in the 2018-2019 national championship and return in 2019-2020.
- There are six teams in the field that have 20 or more tournament appearances: Campbellsville, Wayland Baptist, Oklahoma City, Freed-Hardeman, Lewis-Clark State and Vanguard.
- Evangel enters this year's field with close to a 10 year absence. The teams last appearance being in 2011.
- There are four teams that have qualified for the tournament for the first time: Culver-Stockton, Philander Smith, Rust and Thomas More
- Rocky Mountain boasts its fifth appearance in the postseason. This year, the team qualified with the host bid.
- The Heart of America Athletic Conference boasts six programs in the 2019-2020 field. The Frontier Conference follows with five teams and the American Midwest Conference and Mid-South Conference with four.
- Missouri boasts five teams that qualified for the championship. Montana follow with four qualifiers.
Make sure to download the Experience NAIA Championship App for updated news and information for the 2020 NAIA Division I and II Basketball Championships! Download the app HERE!
2019-2020 Division I Women's Basketball National Championship Qualifiers
|Bethel||Southern States Athletic Conference Regular-Season/Tournament Champion||11||2019||0|
|Central Methodist||Heart of America Athletic Conference Regular-Season/Tournament Champion||5||2018||0|
|Freed-Hardeman||American Midwest Conference Tournament Champion||24||2019||1|
|LSU Shreveport||Red River Athletic Conference Tournament Champion||9||2018||0|
|Lyon||American Midwest Conference Regular-Season Champion||9||2019||0|
|Martin Methodist||Southern States Athletic Coference Tournament Runner-Up||5||2018||0|
|Oklahoma City||Sooner Athletic Conference Regular-Season Champion||26||2019||9|
|Our Lady of the Lake||At-Large||9||2019||0|
|Philander Smith||Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament Champion||1||0||0|
|Providence||Frontier Conference Tournament Champion||5||2019||0|
|Rocky Mountain||Host Berth||5||2019||0|
|Shawnee State||Mid-South Conference Tournament Champion||10||2019||0|
|The Master's||Golden State Athletic Tournament Runner-Up||15||2019||0|
|Wayland Baptist||Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament Champion||27||2019||0|
|Westmont||Golden State Athletic Conference Regular-Season/Touranment Champion||15||2019||1|
|William Penn||Heart of America Athletic Conference Regular-Season Runner-Up||4||2019||0|
The NAIA Network – the association's official video streaming home – will broadcast the first 30 games leading up to the championship final on ESPN3. The video platform, powered by Stretch Internet, allows users access to live video, statistics, and social interaction on a number of devices, including mobile. Single-day and all-tournament packages are available. NAIA Network can be accessed HERE
For more information on the 2019-20 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, CLICK HERE.