MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (March 2, 2016) – The 25th annual NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship bracket has been set, and Milligan College will play its opening-round game against No. 9 Marian University (Ind.) on Wednesday, March 9, at 8:30 p.m. eastern time in Sioux City, Iowa, at the Tyson Events Center. This is the 18th time Sioux City has hosted the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship.
Six-seeded Milligan (23-7 overall, 17-3 AAC) was selected to face the three-seeded Knights (27-6) after winning the 2015-16 Appalachian Athletic Conference regular-season crown and receiving one of the AAC’s two automatic bids. This season has seen the Buffaloes start the season 9-0, the program’s best start since the turn of the century, kick off conference action with eight straight wins, and take down three nationally ranked teams.
Milligan’s 8-0 streak to start the AAC season was capped with an exciting 77-76 win over No. 17 Bryan College at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse back on Jan. 7. The win came after a free throw with no time left on the clock by Sarah Robinson, who finished with an and-one with 1.6 seconds left to give the Buffs a 77-75 victory over then-No. 23 Bryan in the second meeting. The season sweep over Bryan gave Milligan the tiebreaker needed to become AAC champions and earn the automatic bid to the national championship.
This is Head Coach Rich Aubrey‘s sixth time leading the Buffs to the national tournament after doing so four consecutive years from 1997-2000, and again in 2013. Among his six trips to the national tournament, Aubrey and his teams have advanced to the Sweet 16 twice. The last time Milligan women’s basketball was in the national tournament, the Buffs forced overtime, but fell by eight points, 84-76, to College of the Ozarks (Mo.) back on March 7, 2013.
Beginning with the third regular-season NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll on Jan. 5, Milligan was ranked in the top-25 for six straight weeks, including three straight weeks at No. 21. After dropping out of the poll for only one week, Milligan finished the regular season at No. 23 for its seventh week in the poll.
The Knights, who slipped from No. 6 to No. 9 in the final edition of the national poll, earned the Crossroads League’s first automatic bid as the regular-season champion (16-2). The bid is the second straight for Marian after it won the league tournament title, the program’s first, in 2014-15.
This also marks the third time in program history that MU will head to the national tournament with the first coming in 2010-11 where the Knights earned a win in their first game before losing in the round of 16. The Knights, who have now lost three of the last five games heading into the national tournament, and have been ranked as high as No. 3 this season, a feat they accomplished six times since the new year, including a stretch of five weeks in a row until their No. 6 ranking last week.
The winner of the Milligan/Marian game will advance to the round of 16 and face the No. 8 Jamestown (N.D.)/No. 25 Oregon Tech winner on Friday, March 11, at 1 p.m. eastern time.