Patriot Women earn NCAA Tournament bid
The Francis Marion University women's basketball team learned Sunday night (March 6) that it has earned an at-large invitation to the NCAA Division II National Tournament, and that the Patriots will be the seventh seed in the Southeast Regional to be played in Gaffney, S.C., on Friday, Saturday, and Monday (March 11, 12, 14). The three-day regional will be hosted by Limestone College in its 1,500-seat Timken Center.
The 64-team field announced on Sunday night included 24 automatic qualifiers and 40 at-large selections. Winners of each of the eight regionals will advance to Sioux Falls, S.D., for the Elite Eight and national semifinals on March 22 and 23 respectively and the national title game will be played on April 4 in Indianapolis.
Francis Marion, which finished third in the Peach Belt Conference’s East Division, owns a 21-8 record under first-year head coach Jeri Porter and will face the second seed, Lander University (25-6), on Friday at a time to be determined.
The Patriots, only one year removed from losing 20 games (8-20 mark), were picked to finish 13th out of the 14 teams in the Peach Belt Conference pre-season coaches’ poll. The young FMU squad includes only two senior and two juniors.
FMU is making its first tournament appearance since 2011 when the program ended a run of four straight invites. This will be Francis Marion’s 10th appearance overall since moving to NCAA affiliation in 1992. The Patriots earned invitations for five consecutive years between 1997 and 2001, reaching the round of Sweet Sixteen in four straight years (1998-2001) and making the 1998 Final Four. In 2008, FMU hosted the regional as the sixth seed, and in 2010 the Patriots again reached the Sweet Sixteen as the fourth seed in the Southeast. In 2012 as the third seed, FMU advanced to the round of 32.
In addition to FMU and Lander, the other teams in the Southeast Regional are No.1 seed Limestone (30-0), No. 3 seed Columbus State University (24-5), No. 4 seed Clayton State University (22-6), No. 5 seed Anderson University (22-6), No.6 seed Wingate University (21-8), and No. 8 seed Augusta University (22-8).
Four first-round games will be played on Friday (March 11). The semifinals will be played on Saturday (March 12) with the championship game set for Monday night (March 14).
Should Francis Marion win its first game, the Patriots would face the Columbus State/Wingate winner in the semifinals.
Francis Marion leads in the all-time series with Lander 53-32.
The three automatic berths in the Southeast Region were secured by Lander (winner of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament), Limestone (Conference Carolinas Tournament champion), and Wingate (South Atlantic Conference Tournament winner).
NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament Southeast Regional
Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C. (1,500-seat Timken Center)
FRIDAY (March 11) First-Round Games (times to be announced)
Lander University (25-6) v. Francis Marion University (21-8)
Columbus State University (24-5) v. Wingate University (21-8)
Limestone College (30-0) v. Augusta University (22-8)
Clayton State University (22-6) v. Anderson University (22-6)
SATURDAY (March 12)
TBA Semifinal Games
MONDAY (March 14)
TBA Championship game