Raiders set for national semifinals tonight
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The NAIA Division II National Tournament got complicated going into tonight’s semifinal games after a rollercoaster quarterfinal round that left more than a few heads spinning.
Third-ranked Southern Oregon (32-1) is the only remaining No. 1 seed after two others — Morningside (Iowa), the top-ranked defending champion, and fourth-ranked Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) — were upset on Saturday. The Raiders would have been the clear-cut favorite of the last four, but even they appear vulnerable now after All-American point guard Ashley Claussen's injury during their 73-67 quarterfinal win over 11th-ranked Tabor (Kan.).
What's left is perhaps the most unpredictable "Fab Four" since the first Div. II tournament was held in 1992: The Raiders have only been in it one other team in team history (19 years ago) and are representing a Cascade Conference that hasn't produced a semifinal qualifier since 2001, and the three other remaining teams had combined for just two tournament wins between them coming into the season.
At 4 p.m. tonight, ninth-ranked and No. 3 seed Marian (Ind.) (29-6) will meet 12th-ranked and No. 3 seed Mount Marty (S.D.) (25-10) at the Tyson Events Center. At 6 p.m. SOU will get a shot to reach its first title game against 18th-ranked and No. 5 seed Goshen (Ind.), which has pulled off three straight upsets to get to this point, including a knockout of No. 1 seed Saint Xavier (Ill.) in the second round.
The title game will tip off at 5:04 p.m. Tuesday and a first-time champion will be crowned a couple hours later. All remaining games will be carried live online by ESPN3 and SOU's game(s) can be viewed in Ashland at RedZone Sports Bar & Grill and Northwest Pizza.
- The last 15 tournaments have all been won by just five teams, all from the states of Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska.
- Ten of the last 13 tournaments had been won by the No. 1 overall seed.
- The Chicagoland Conference and the Great Plains Athletic Conference had six teams each in the tournament, including three No. 1 seeds, but Mount Marty, representing the GPAC, is the only one left.
- Four of six semifinal games over the last three years have been decided by three points or less, and only once in the last five years has a team won a semifinal by more than 10 points.
- The last Cascade Conference school to make the semifinals was College of Idaho, then Albertson, in 2001, and the Coyotes were defeated 77-50 by Northwestern (Iowa) in the championship. The CCC won three straight titles from 1995 to '97 — Western Oregon won the first two and Northwest Nazarene (Idaho) the third — but hasn't produced a champion since. This was the first year that two CCC teams advanced past the first round since 2000.
SOU Quick Hits:
- After starting the season on a 16-game win streak, the Raiders have won 16 more in a row since their only loss at Eastern Oregon.
- The Raiders have forced 70 turnovers through the first three games of the tourney, and Tiani Bradford is averaging four steals per game.
- Demi Sahlinger, a 38-percent shooter on the season, has come through in the clutch with 8-of-14 shooting over the last two games. She also has 20 assists over her last four.
- Autumn Durand has continued her steady play for the Raiders with 15.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game at the tournament. She also became the 18th 1,000-point scorer in team history with her final bucket in Friday's second-round win.
- Carly Meister is up to 62 percent from the field this season after going 29-for-40 over the past four games.
- Before going down, Claussen had hit 12-of-25 attempts from 3-point range in three tournament games and scored 45 points. As a team, the Raiders have hit 28 triples at the tourney to offset poor shooting at the free-throw line, where they are 27-of-52 after coming in with a team percentage of 73 on the season.
- Four straight Raider opponents have shot over 40 percent from the field after a stretch of 10 games in which only one opponent did so.