NCAA Division II Elite Eight tournament capsules

Noah Cloonan

The No. 1 ranked team in the country, the Ashland University Eagles, won the Midwest Regional Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight in Columbus, OH, which will take place on March 21, 22, and 24. Below are capsules of the eight teams that have moved on as the quest for a National Championship.

No. 1 Ashland University Eagles
Record: 34-0
Key Players: Junior Laina Snyder leads the Eagles with 16.8 ppg and 8.9 rebounds. Another junior, Andi Daugherty is second on the team with 15.1 ppg and is averaging close to 20 ppg over the team’s last nine. Five players average in double digits on the highest scoring team in the nation.
How they got here: AU fought through Malone (72-40), Grand Valley State (77-62) and Drury (74-62) to reach the Elite Eight.
Final Thoughts: It’s no surprise that the Eagles advanced through the Midwest Region and they did so in style by beating Grand Valley for the third time this season and defeating a Drury team that knocked them out of the postseason last year. The Eagles are 4-0 against teams ranked in the top 25 this season. AU is hungry for their second title in school history and playing just and hour and a half from Ashland should make Alumni Hall a virtual home game for the Eagles. Ashland, the winningest program in Division II over the past five seasons and is looking to continue that in Columbus. Ashland (2013) and Virginia Union (1983) are the only two schools left in the field that have won a national championship. The Eagles are looking to become fourth Division II school to win the National Championship without losing a game.

No. 2 California Baptist University Lancers
Record: 34-2
Key Players: Cassidy Mihalko, a senior guard, averages 19.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. She had a season high 30 points in a game this season and in another game grabbed 18 rebounds. She shoots an elite, 54% from the field. She is joined in the backcourt by another senior guard, Kamille Diaz. Diaz is second on the team in scoring at 14.8 per game and shoots 38% from three point range.
How they got here: Cal Baptist got an overtime win to start the West Region with a win over No. 24 Point Loma (85-79). In the second round the Lancers defeated No. 16 Western Washington (80-68). Cal Baptist got some help as Simon Fraser knocked No. 2 Alaska Anchorage out of the tournament in the semifinals and the Lancers beat Simon Fraser (77-64) to advance to the Elite Eight.
Final Thoughts: Both of the Lancers losses came in the first week of the season. They are riding high on a 31 game winning streak and are ranked No. 3 overall in the nation. They were able to escape a tough west region, but did so without having to face Alaska Anchorage, which was arguably their toughest test. Cal Baptist has been here before and just recently as this will be their second trip to the Elite Eight in three seasons. The last trip saw the Lancers make it all the way to the championship game and the seven players on the team that return from that championship run will no doubt be looking to come out on top this time around.

No. 3 Columbus State Cougars
Record: 31-1
Key Players: The Cougars are undoubtedly led by their frontcourt that features two upperclassman. 6-2 Junior, Alexis Carter scores 16.6 points per game and pulls down 10.6 rebounds a game. 6-0 Senior, Ashley Asouzu follows closely behind at 14.5 points per games and 9.6 rebounds.
How they got here: Columbus State was the host site of the Southeast regional tournament and they breezed through picking up wins over Anderson (73-62), Lander (73-63) and No. 13 Lincoln Memorial (86-75).
Final Thoughts: Columbus State has turned it on to end the year winning 22 straight contests and breezing through the Peach Belt Conference Tournament and the Southeast Regional Tournament. The Cougars, ranked fourth in the country, have played just one team ranked in the top 25 this season and it was in their most recent matchup against Lincoln Memorial. This will be unfamiliar territory for the Cougars as they make their first Elite Eight appearance since 2001. It is the third regional championship in school history, the previous two trips saw Columbus State get to the Final Four before bowing out. The Cougars, who are from Columbus, GA will pack their bags and head for Columbus, OH looking for their first title in school history.

No. 4 Harding University Bison
Record: 30-3
Key Players: The Bison have a very balanced scoring attack as four players average at least 11 or more points per game. They Also have 10 players who average better than ten minutes per game. Caroline Hogue leads the way averaging 13.4 points per game. She also grabs nearly nine rebounds per game and has 88 blocks on the season. A’ndrea Haney plays 29.2 minutes per game for the Bison and adds in over 11 points per contest.
How they got here: Harding was tested in the Central Region tournament as they played two ranked teams and all three games were decided by less than 15 points. They opened the tournament with a win over Arkansas Tech (59-46), followed by a 66-58 win over No. 19 University of Central Missouri and rounded out the tournament with a thriller against No. 6 Emporia State (58-56).
Final Thoughts: Harding is 5-0 on the year in Neutral sites and they are also 5-0 against ranked opponents. The Bison have played in many close games and have had to battle adversity including overcoming an 18-point deficit in the third quarter against Emporia State that shot them into the Elite Eight. Harding is currently in the midst of their best stretch of basketball in school history. This is the school’s first appearance in the Elite Eight and they are currently making their third trip to the NCAA tournament. The Bison are a young team consisting of just two seniors, but they have played good basketball all season and will be riding a 16 game winning streak heading to Columbus.

No. 5 Queens (N.Y.) College Knights
Record: 27-4
Key Players: Queens is led by a trio of sisters, Madison, Mackenzie and Merrick Rowland. Madison, a senior leads the group at 21.9 point per game while Mackenzie, the redshirt senior follows close behind chipping in 17.5 per contest. Merrick, the youngest of the bunch averages 8.2 points per game. The sisters combine to average 25.2 rebounds a game.
How they got here: After losing in their conference tournament, the Knights turned it on in the NCAA tournament as they defeated Assumption (69-48), University of the Sciences (77-67) and Molloy (70-60) and won the East Region.
Final Thoughts: It’s difficult to stop a player that averages nearly 22 points per game, but to also have to stop two of her sisters as well sounds like a tall task. The Rowland sisters have led the Knights to their first Elite Eight appearance in school history. Madison has 17 double-doubles on the year, but her older sister Mackenzie has outdone her by leading the NCAA in double-doubles with 22 on the season. Both sisters have eclipsed both the 1,000 point mark and 1,000 rebound mark for their career while Madison is the school record holder as she has she has scored 2,356 points in her career. While Queens may be inexperienced in the Elite Eight, the team is led by a majority of upper classmen and should be ready to play on March 21.

No. 6 Virginia Union University Panthers
Record: 26-4
Key Players: Brittney Jackson leads the way for the Panthers scoring 18.4 per game and pulling down six boards per game, but has not played in a game since February 24. Lady Walker has stepped up in the absence of Jackson scoring 14.4 points per game and grabbing 11.2 rebounds per game. Walker was named to the Atlantic region All-Tournament Team and was awarded MVP honors.
How they got here: Heading into the Atlantic regional tournament, the Panthers were the No. 3 seed and had to knock off both top seeds to advance to the Elite Eight. They defeated Wheeling Jesuit (66-58) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (62-58), before knocking off the top seed California University of Pennsylvania (85-69) in the championship game.  
Final Thoughts: This is the second straight season that the Panthers have been able to advance to the Elite Eight and they have done so by taking down some very difficult opponents. After losing in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament, Virginia Union responded by winning three of their toughest games of the season to win the regional tournament and they did so without their leading scorer on the season, Jackson. Walker stepped up and delivered a phenomenal performance scoring a season high 32 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in 38 minutes in the regional championship game. If Walker’s success can transfer into the Elite Eight, the Panthers could give some of the higher seeds trouble.  

No. 7 West Florida University Argonauts
Record: 28-6
Key Players: Toni Brewer and Katie Bobos lead the way for the Argonauts. Brewer averages a team high 13.8 points per game while pulling down 11.6 rebounds and Bobos puts in 12.5 points per contest and grabs 10.4 rebounds per game. The two each average over 32 minutes per game.
How they got here: After losing the Gulf South Conference Championship in overtime, the Argonauts responded by rattling off three straight wins over Nova Southeastern (66-57), Benedict (74-51), and Rollins (72-62)
Final Thoughts: West Florida got some help in the Regional Tournament, as they did not have to play the No. 1 seed Eckert in the Tournament. The Argonauts are 0-2 on the season against ranked opponents and they will see a ranked team Elite Eight. They will also be in new territory, as they will also be making their first appearance in the Elite Eight. In the latest NCAA Division II women’s basketball rankings, West Florida received votes, but could not crack the top 25. The Argonauts will be looking to catapult their way into the top 25 by making a splash at the Elite Eight.

No. 8 West Texas A&M Buffaloes
Record: 26-8
Key Players: The Buffs are lead by a trio of seniors. Sasha Watson leads the way with 14.0 points per game and also has 155 assists on the year. Joining Watson in the backcourt is fellow senior guard, Allie Decker. Decker is a three point specialist hitting 41% from behind the arc while scoring just under 11 points per game. Maddison Wild also contributes double digit scoring numbers averaging 10.7 a game while shooting 55.5% from the field.
How they got here: It was not an easy route for the Buffaloes but they found a way to come out on top and are advancing. They defeated Regis 75-67 in the first round before drawing a date with the No. 1 seed Colorado State-Pueblo. The Buffs won an overtime thriller, 70-67 and advanced to the South Central Regional Championship game where they had a rematch with Angelo State, the team that had knocked them out of the conference tournament just a week ago. The Buffs ran Angelo State out of the gym, 86-64 and found themselves in the Elite Eight.
Final Thoughts: West Texas A&M is the lowest seed to make the tournament and the only team that is not at least receiving votes to be in the top 25. That being said they are by far the most experienced team of the field in the Elite Eight. The Buffs are making their third appearance in the past four seasons to the Elite Eight. They lost to Bentley in the national championship game in 2014. The three senior leaders for the Buffs were all a part of the run to the national championship game and know what it takes to compete in the Elite Eight. The experience that West Texas A&M has the ability to make them a very dangerous opponent in the NCAA Elite Eight.

The Elite Eight is being held at Alumni Hall on the campus of Ohio Dominican University.
The Schedule for March 21 is as follows:
No. 3 seed Columbus State (31-1) vs. No. 6 seed Virginia Union (26-4) at noon
No. 2 seed California Baptist (34-2) vs. No. 7 West Florida (28-6) at 2:30 p.m.
No. 1 seed Ashland (34-0) vs. No. 8 seed West Texas A&M (26-8) on at 6 p.m.
No. 4 seed Harding (30-3) vs. No. 5 seed Queens (N.Y.) (27-4) at 8:30 p.m.