Maryville College’s Kelsey Brown vs. Greensboro

Greensboro College transfer senior Tiffani Stephens (31) blocks the shot of Maryville College’s Kelsey Brown on Saturday at the Copper Athletic Center. Stephens, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Eastern Carolina, had three blocks in the USA South championship game, giving her 18 during the Pride’s three-game USAC tournament run.

The NCAA Division III Selection Committee’s choices for the field of 64 will be released at 2:30 p.m. today.

Maryville College will have a few nerves, strange things can happen, but the majority of the prognosticators have the Scots safely in the field.

There are 44 automatic qualifying bids into the D3 women’s basketball tournament and 43 of those AQs are awarded to conference tournament winners. That leaves 20 at-large selections for the committee to decide on before getting down to jumping the mental hoops required to do NCAA travel math and determine the 16 host sites for the first and second round games.

Pat Coleman at d3hoops.com has MC in the field, writing “Maryville (25-3 vs. Division III) is in good shape.”

It’s a body of work that speaks for itself.

The Scots lost twice to a 24-win Greensboro team and its 6-foot-4 Division 1 senior transfer post. The other loss was to Thomas More, a 72-62 decision. That puts Maryville in the company of Cabrini and St. Vincent as one of only three D3 schools to come within 10 points of the nation’s undefeated No. 1 team that has averaged a 36-point margin of victory this season.

Of all the NCAA banners hanging in Boydson Baird Gymnasium, only one team equals the 25-3 mark MC carries. None better it.

Still strange things happen. Maryville’s loss in the USA South finals leave the door to the odd and odder cracked open. The NCAAs South Region rankings, which are generally a good tool for some insights on the direction of the wind, got hammered in conference play. Of the nine ranked teams, only one, No. 5 Texas-Dallas, won its conference tournament. It had to knock off No. 1 Texas-Tyler and No. 8 Louisiana College to do it, and the ASC tournament was expected to create some attrition with three teams ranked. It was the rest of the mess that will make it interesting. The ODAC also had three squads among the nine, but none of them won out with Randolph-Macon being upset in the quarterfinals, and No. 2 Eastern Mennonite and No. 7 Lynchburg both falling prey to a streaking Virginia Wesleyan that is now among the 44 just awaiting a location.

Trinity and Millsaps both lost in their respective title games, as well.

It’s a scenario likely to hurt the region with some deserving folks being left home as only one of the top nine has an AQ. It also puts a dent into who may host.

MC was in the running for that conversation on merit if the geography worked out this time. Those chances look much dimmer in the wake of a sleepless Sunday for so many teams in the region.

They’ll play somewhere but if the Scots have a reason to be nervous it could well be to not get tagged as a host. Maryville has played looser and better outside the confines of the Cooper Center this season.

The uncharacteristic missed shots and long scoring droughts that plagued MC during its USAC tournament run, may well disappear as quickly as bags being thrown into the baggage compartment under the bus.

Given their druthers it’s probable that coach Darrin Travillian would prefer to not head to Crestview Hills, Ky., for the first round, but finding a trip to Memphis or Virginia in the brackets might not be all that bad.

As long as they’re in, it’s all that matters.

Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at thedailytimes.com

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