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Raiders only top seed left in unpredictable NAIA D2 Final Four

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The NAIA Division II National Tournament got complicated going into today's semifinal games after a rollercoaster quarterfinal round that left more than a few heads spinning.

Third-ranked Southern Oregon (32-1 overall) 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. (Pacific) today, 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.

Tourney Tidbits:

• 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.

About Goshen: The Maple Leafs have won nine of their last 10, their only loss in that stretch being a 61-59 setback against Indiana Wesleyan in the Crossroads tournament championship game. They started the season 11-1 before a four-game losing streak in December and finished 15-3 in the Crossroads in the regular season, one game behind Marian… Jo'Mani Thomas (15.3 pionts) and Tyra Carver (15 points) have led the team in scoring at the tournament… They ranked No. 9 in the nation in team field-goal percentage (45.0), 20th in rebounding margin (5.6) and 21st in 3-point percentage (34.4)… Goshen's only previous tournament appearance was in 2004, when it was bounced in the first round.