KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially announced the 32-team field for the 33rd annual NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship. The event will be held for the second-straight year at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky., from March 13 - 19. The official championship bracket will be announced via a graphical selection show at 7 p.m. CST on www.NAIA.org.
The field is comprised of 17 automatic berths, Mid-South Conference host institution Georgetown (Ky.) and 14 at-large selections, which were determined using the final regular-season Coaches' Top 25 Poll released earlier today.
Top-ranked Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) highlights the field with an NAIA-best 31-1 overall record. The Lady Lions are making their 17th trip to the national championship and own a 21-16 record in those contests. Freed-Hardeman won its fifth all-time TranSouth Conference Tournament championship with a 71-63 victory over second-seeded Martin Methodist (Tenn.) to claims the league's automatic berth.
Defending national champion Oklahoma City enters the championship as the most decorated of the 32 teams. The Stars, who qualified as the No. 1 at-large out of the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) and are making their 16th-straight (18th all-time) appearance, rank third all-time with 54 victories at the event, trailing only former-NAIA members Union (Tenn.) (67) and Southern Nazarene (Okla.) (58). Oklahoma City ranks second all-time with six national titles - Southern Nazarene boasts an event-best seven championships - in nine trips to the finals, including four-straight crowns from 1999 - 2002. Vanguard (Calif.) is the only other qualifier with a national championship (2008) on its resume. Joining Oklahoma City out of the SAC are returning semifinalist Lubbock Christian (Texas) and quarterfinalist Rogers State (Okla.).
For the second-straight year, the Mid-South Conference placed the most programs of any conference or unaffiliated group with six programs: Campbellsville (Ky.), Cumberland (Tenn.), Cumberlands (Ky.), Georgetown (Ky.), St. Catharine (Ky.) and Shawnee State (Ohio).
In all, nine teams have made at-least 10 appearances at the national championship, led by Campbellsville's 21 trips. The Tigers, who qualified as the Mid-South Conference Tournament runner-up, own a 17-20 national championship record, including six trips to the quarterfinals. In addition to Campbellsville, Oklahoma City (19), Xavier (La.) (17), Freed-Hardeman (17) and Vanguard have made 15-or-more appearances.
Five teams punched a ticket to their first-ever NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship: Benedictine (Kan.), Central Methodist (Mo.), Coastal Georgia, Faulkner (Ala.) and St. Catharine (Ky.). Prior to the Heart of America Athletic Conference joining Division I in 2008-09, Benedictine had made five trips to the Division II championship, while Central Methodist owns four including a run to the semifinals in 1999.
Nineteen teams return from the 2012 field.