5 Minnesota teams--3 women's and 2 men's, and 3 MIAC and 2 UMAC--have been selected to play in the 2 (men's and women's) 64 team NCAA D3 championship tournaments. Those teams are:
• The St. Thomas men are 26-1 and rated #1 nationally, so they'll open at home against Aurora (22-6).
• Northwestern (Roseville) men, regular and post-season champs of the UMAC, 21-6 and unrated. They will open at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The Pointer men are 21-5 and #14 nationally.
As long as the Tommies are victorious they should retain the home court (until the quarter-finals, anyway) while St. Scholastica seems destined to stay on the road as long as they keep winning.
• Concordia (Moorhead) women, regular season champions of the MIAC at 19-3, go into the NCAA tournament 21-6 overall. They are the only at-large selection among the 5. They too will open at Wisconsin-Stevens Point 23-5, #21, though on Friday versus the men's game on Saturday. The Pointers won their 6th straight WIAC playoff title by defeating regular season champion Wisconsin-Whitewater 78-71 in OT. The winner of Friday's game will play the winner of Simpson versus Westminster, MO, at Stevens Point on Saturday.
• The St. Scholastica women advance as the UMAC post-season champs, with just a 13-14 record overall. They open on Friday with Cornell (IA), 24-1 and #14, at Mount Vernon, IA, where Calvin is the host school.
• The St. Thomas women stumbled in January and therefore are 22-5 but rated just #36, and they open on the road Friday at Calvin, 23-3, #3. The 2 met in the season-opener for both schools with Calvin winning 78-72. The 2 also met for the D3 volleyball title last fall with St. Thomas winning that one, 3-2. The Calvin-St. Thomas winner will play the Cornell-St. Scholastica winner on Saturday.
Storylines include 1) the most peculiar post-season format ever seen. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the NCAA championships, D1, D2 and D3 finals will all be held April 7 and 8 in Atlanta. That means that the men's D3 tournament will sprawl out over a 6-week period. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds are on successive Saturdays March 2, 9 and 16, all at the higher remaining seeds.
The Elite 8 and Final 4 will be played Friday and Saturday March 22 and 23 in Salem, VA. 2 winners will emerge from there, and will play for the championship TWO WEEKS LATER in Atlanta. What a stupid arrangement. 6 games in 6 weeks. The champion will be the team that can stay awake for the whole affair.
The 2nd storyline for us Minnesotans is St. Thomas, St. Thomas, St. Thomas. 1 for the men, 1 for the women and another for the obvious overkill. Can't anybody here beat these people? But now that they've advanced (and let's be honest, Concordia and St. Scholastica are not going to get the job done), let's see if they can (no, let's cheer for them to) repeat their success of 2 years ago (when the men won the national title) and a year ago (when the women made it to the Final Four).
The women, by the way, play a normal timeline. 2 games this weekend, 2 next weekend, and 2 the weekend after that, at least for the 2 finalists.
In summary, I expect the Tommies men to win a bunch of games, while the Tommies women? If they can get past Calvin, they could win a bunch, too, but NCAA did them no favors making them play the #3 team on the road in the 1st round. Still, they're playing well of late and a victory is hardly out of the question. Everybody else is probably one a done.