The National: Getting Local - Kansas Schools

While we're all gearing up for the Big 12 tournaments (let's not forget the women are playing Iowa State on Thursday, and Charlie Creme currently has us as a 9 seed), there's a ton of other post-season action already underway. There are four Kansas D-I schools likely to continue playing past this weekend (you'll note which school is responsible for two of them, neener neener).

However, there are THIRTEEN other squads from the state of Kansas -- plus five other neighboring schools related by conference affiliation -- are all out there trying to win national championships, and really, we should support our little brothers in these weighty endeavors. Or at least pick sides and fight about it, which is probably more fun anyway. (Die, Washburn, Die.) Ahem. Let's take a look, shall we?

NCAA Division II
Washburn, top-seeded in both halves of the MIAA tournament, swept the titles on Sunday. The men knocked off seventh-seeded Pittsburg State 67-63, and the women dispatched third seed Emporia State 68-59. Both squads move on to the South Central region of the NCAA Division II Tournament, obviously; the men earned the fourth seed, while the women are the top seed and get to host. Also drawing berths from the MIAA were the Missouri Southern and Northwest Missouri State men, and the women from Pittsburg State, Emporia State, and Central Missouri. Northeastern State (OK), who will join the MIAA next season, also got in as an at-large independent, as did Newman of Wichita, the Heartland Conference champion.

Friday: Women's South Central Regional at Washburn
1 Washburn (28-4) vs 8 West Texas A&M
2 Pittsburg State (24-5) vs 7 Central Missouri (20-8)
5 Emporia State (21-8) vs 4 Tarleton State (23-8)
6 Newman (23-5) vs 3 Northeastern State (24-4)

Saturday: Men's South Central Regional at Midwestern State (Wichita Falls, TX)
4 Washburn (24-7) vs 5 Northwest Missouri State (22-6)
6 Missouri Southern (22-7) vs 3 Tarleton State (26-5)

NCAA Division III
There are no local teams in NCAA Division III, whose tournaments got underway on Thursday. There have been some earth-shattering developments, however. The #1-ranked men's team, Hope (MI), got upended 108-101 in double overtime by Illinois Wesleyan in a second-round contest. Defending champion St. Thomas (MN) was destroyed by Wisconsin-Whitewater 91-62.

On the women's side, eight teams entered the tournament either unbeaten or with one loss; seven of them navigated their way into the sweet sixteen, with only DePauw (27-2) falling by the wayside. Unbeaten Amherst, Mary Washington, George Fox, and Chicago, as well as once-vanquished Mount Union, Calvin, and St. Thomas (MN) all remain in the hunt, though one of the seven will go home on Friday as Chicago hosts Calvin. Only Amherst and Mount Union have relatively clear paths to the Final Four, as George Fox is on the other side of Mary Washington's regional bracket, and St. Thomas, should they survive Tufts, awaits the Calvin/Chicago winner.

NAIA Division I
The Heart of America tournament finals are tonight in Olathe. MidAmerica Nazarene won the regular season title on both ends this year, so all four teams playing tonight will be headed to Municipal Auditorium regardless. (The HAAC has two automatic bids; the second bid goes to either the regular season champion, or the tournament runner-up if the regular season champion wins the tournament.) There's a chance the Evangel men (23-9) will draw an at-large bid as well.

Tonight:
M: 3 Baker (21-10) at 1 MidAmerica Nazarene (24-8)
W: 6 Graceland (14-12) at 1 MidAmerica Nazarene (24-8)

NAIA Division II
Five Kansas teams (all from the KCAC) are gearing up for their already-secured appearances in the national tournament. McPherson, the men's regular-season and tournament champion, will be joined by Saint Mary, the runner-up in both regards. As for the women, regular-season champion Friends and tournament champion Sterling will be joined by Southwestern, who received an at-large bid.

Men, at Point Lookout MO
Wednesday: 5 McPherson (30-3) vs Dakota State (SD) (18-12)
Thursday: Saint Mary (25-5) vs 14 Indiana Southeast (25-7)

Women, at Sioux City IA
Wednesday: 6 Southwestern (23-8) vs 3 Mount Mercy (IA) (25-8)
Wednesday: 8 Sterling (18-12) vs 1 Concordia (NE) (31-2)
Thursday: 5 Friends (23-9) vs 4 College of Idaho (22-8)

(Note that for the men's tournament, the NAIA seeds 16 teams across the board, then blind-draws their first-round opponents, while the women's tournament is four fully-seeded 8-team brackets. I have no idea why they do it differently. I just roll with it.)

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