KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With Mid-South Conference regular season and tournament titles tucked neatly under their belts, the CU Lady Tigers validated their season-long ride in the NAIA Top 10, and dance into the final Division I Women's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 Poll at No. 4.
The finish warrants one of the four No. 1 seeds in the 32-team NAIA National Tournament field that will begin play on Wednesday, March 19 at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky.
"It's exciting to start this phase to the season," said coach Ginger Colvin. "This is what we work for ... We feel confident going into the tournament after winning such a tough Mid-South Conference."
Campbellsville drew the Southern Polytechnic (Ga.) Hornets (23-7), runners-up in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, as its first-round opponent, playing at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19. The game will follow the traditional Parade of Champions.
"We are working on finding out as much as we can about out opponent," continued Colvin. "We are hoping that with our depth it will be hard for others to prepare for us. At this point in the season every game is tough, and we just have to give it all we've got and see what happens. I really like our chances."
The Lady Tigers (30-3) won their 18th regular season conference title (6 KIAC, 12 MSC) and ninth conference tournament title (4 KIAC, 5 MSC) this season. CU beat Georgetown College, 75-68, on Sunday, March 9 in Lebanon, Tenn., to win the Mid-South Conference Tournament title for the fifth time in program history.
Campbellsville is making its 22nd NAIA National Tournament appearance, the most of any team currently in the NAIA. CU, which spent the last six weeks ranked in the Top 5, is one of five teams in the national tournament with less than four losses.
Three Kentucky teams are competing in the tournament and four Mid-South Conference teams: Campbellsville, Georgetown, University of the Cumberlands, Shawnee State University (Ohio).
Georgetown is a No. 2 seed in the No. 1 Vanguard's bracket. The Tigers play on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. against Loyola (La.). Cumberlands is a No. 6 seed in No. 1 Freed-Hardeman's bracket and plays No. 3 Baker (Kan.) in the tournament's first game on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Shawnee State is a No. 7 seed in No. 1 Westminster's bracket and plays No. 2 Oklahoma Baptist at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
The field consists of 17 automatic berths and 15 at-large selections. Automatic qualification is given to conference regular-season champions, tournament champions, regular-season runners-up or tournament runners-up, depending on the league. At-large teams were determined using the final regular-season Coaches' Top 25 Poll.
FINAL REGULAR SEASON POLL
Vanguard (Calif.) closed the 2013-14 regular season the way it started, atop the poll. The Lions received nine-of-10 first-place votes and accumulated 250 total points to earn their 40th all-time No. 1 ranking, dating back to the 1999-2000 season. Vanguard has topped the poll 12-straight times this season, beginning with the Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll on Oct. 29, 2013.
Vanguard is one of two one-loss teams heading into the national championship. The Lions suffered their first loss of the season to then-No. 17 Hope International (Calif.), 80-76, in the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Tournament semifinals.
The other one-loss team, American Midwest Conference (AMC) regular-season and tournament champion Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), earns its 10th-straight No. 2 ranking with one first-place vote and 242 total points. In their first year as members of the AMC, the Lady Lions went 3-0 against arguably their fiercest competitor in the conference, No. 10 Columbia (Mo.).
Westminster (Utah) accrued 234 points to hold the No. 3 position for the eighth-straight week. The Frontier Conference regular-season and tournament champion Griffins have not lost since Dec. 28, 2013 —a streak of 17-straight victories.
No. 4 Campbellsville and No. 5 Oklahoma City round out the top five for the third-straight week with 226 and 218 points, respectively.
Oklahoma City, which qualified for the national championship as the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) regular-season champion, fell to then-No. 20 John Brown (Ark.), 66-62, in the SAC Tournament semifinals.
The GSAC, MSC and SAC lead all conferences with four programs ranked among the Top 25 in the final regular-season poll.