• Collin Atwood

CBT's NCCAA D1 Women's Update

Of the eight teams that are competing in the National Christian College Athletic Association Division-I women’s tournament that starts Wednesday, seven have never won the title.


Defending champion Northwestern University is not in the bracket. Roberts Wesleyan College, the No. 8 seed, won the championship in 2016. The chances appear good that one of the seven teams will be able to win three games to capture its first title.


The tournament, which is being hosted by Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., will conclude with Saturday’s championship games and loser’s bracket contests will determine third, fifth and seventh places.


Here are the four teams that appear to have the best chance of cutting down the nets and hoisting the championship trophy.


College of the Ozarks

The top-seeded Bobcats open with a matchup against Roberts Wesleyan. Considering both the College of the Ozarks is ranked No. 4 in the NCCAA power rankings and its recent play, the Bobcats will be heavily favored.


The Bobcats have won 14 of their last 16, with 11 victories by double digits. College of the Ozarks is an at-large entry in the tourney because they lost to Southwestern Christian University, the No. 6 seed in the national bracket, in the Central Region Championship game.


Despite the recent loss, the Bobcats have the advantage over Roberts Wesleyan in almost every statistical category – averaging more points, rebounds, blocked shots, and assists. If the College of the Ozarks continues to dominate on both ends of the floor, advancing to the semifinals shouldn’t be difficult.


Asbury University

Asbury, the No. 2 seed, had a successful season thanks to its elite defense. The Eagles are 19-5 and No. 5 in the NCCAA power ratings. They are ninth in the league in points allowed per game (60.1), second in blocked shots (4.3) and fourth in steals (13.2).


Their first-round opponent, Columbia International University, carries a 16-16 record into the tournament and is No. 15 in the latest power ratings. The Rams could struggle to score against Asbury, but the Eagles will also present a defensive challenge.


Asbury averages 79.8 points a game and a NCCAA-leading 9.8 three pointers made per game. That translates into the Eagles having a point differential of 19.8 on their opponents. Columbia will need to play at a high level to stay with Asbury.


Southwestern Christian University

This is the only upset of the first round as the pick here is that sixth-seeded Southwestern Christian will knock off No. 3 seed Grace College (20-13).


Both teams had a winning record at the end of the regular season, but the Eagles (17-14) have the momentum of winning their way into the national tournament. Southwestern Christian beat the College of Ozarks in the Central Region Championship game, 62-49.


That was the Eagles’ second victory over the top-seeded Bobcats. Southwestern Christian posted a 65-49 victory on Dec. 10, led by senior forward Thamires Andrade, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds.


Andrade has been putting up similar numbers all season and she is the type of dominant player who can be the difference in the post-season. She is third in NCCAA in scoring at 19.2 per game and leads her team in rebounds, steals and field goal percentage.


University of Northwestern

The four-five first-round matchup is a classic conundrum: Will a great defense stop a great offense? The choice here rests with the defense. Fourth-seeded University of Northwestern should have the edge in shutting down the high-powered offense of fifth-seeded Oakland University.


The Eagles (20-6) only allow 55.2 points a game, which is second best in NCCAA. Northwestern also averages 3.4 blocked shots and 10.8 steals per game.


The Mighty Oaks (23-12) average 82.2 points a game but put a lot of pressure on their offense because of defensive shortcomings. Oakland allows 77 points a game, which is 36th out of the 41 teams in D-I. Oakland thrives in fast-paced shootouts. Northwestern’s defense will try to prevent the game being played in that style.


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