KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially released the field of 32 teams for the 32nd Annual Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship presented by the Kentucky Department of Travel. The event will be held inside the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky., from March 14 – 20. The official 32-team bracket will be unveiled at 6 p.m. CST on NAIA.org.
Perennial power Union (Tenn.) makes its NAIA-best 23rd appearance, including a streak of 20-straight dating back to 1992. The Lady Bulldogs, who claimed their second-straight TranSouth Conference Tournament title, lead the nation with 31 victories and received one of the tournament’s 17 automatic berths that are awarded to teams who qualified out of their respective conferences. The remainder of the 32-team field is filled with 15 at-large selections. The at-large teams are determined using the final Coaches’ Top 25 rating released today.
In addition to claiming the national appearance record, Union is one of five teams in the field with at least 20 postseason wins. The Lady Bulldogs tournament record 63 victories are followed by Southern Nazarene (Okla.) (58), Oklahoma City (49), Vanguard (Calif.) (23) and Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) (21).
Defending national champion Azusa Pacific (Calif.) makes the field for the ninth-straight season following a runner-up finish in the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) tournament to Westmont (Calif.). The Cougars, who claimed the GSAC’s second national championship in 2011, are vying to become the conference’s first repeat champion.
Five teams among this year’s qualifiers have won at least one previous national championship. Southern Nazarene leads all teams with seven titles, including four-straight between 1994 and 1997, while Union and Oklahoma City are second with five championships, respectively.
Freed-Hardeman, who earned the No. 1 at-large spot, enters the tournament with the most postseason victories (21) without claiming a national championship. The Lady Lions have reached the semifinals three times, including a Fab Four appearance in 2011.
Participating for the first time in the National Championship will be Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament champion MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), Red River Athletic Conference Tournament champion Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) and at-large Lyon (Ark.) out of the TranSouth.
The Mid South Conference landed a tournament-high five teams (Cumberlands (Ky.), Shawnee State (Ohio), Georgetown (Ky.), Campbellsville (Ky.) and Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)), while the GSAC, Sooner Athletic Conference and Southern States Athletic Conference garnered four teams each.
NeuLion is the NAIA's Digital Media Partner and official video-streaming company of 10 select NAIA National Championship events. The first 30 matches from Frankfort, Ky., will be available via live video stream for $29.95 and any single day can be purchased for $9.95. Also, one can purchase the all-tournament package of all four basketball tournaments for $49.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.
The National Championship final on March 20 will be televised live on CBS Sports Network at 6 p.m. EST.