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Lady Dawgs draw Oklahoma Baptist
Mar 09, 2007 12:00 am
Cumberland's women were rewarded for a solid showing against a strong schedule with the highest seed the Lady Bulldogs have ever received for the NAIA Women's Basketball National Championships.
The Lady Bulldogs drew a No. 3 seed as the brackets were released Wednesday. They will face No. 6-seed Oklahoma Baptist at 9 a.m. next Thursday at Oman Arena in Jackson.
The 32-team tournament is broken into four eight-team brackets. Cumberland was ranked 12th in the final NAIA poll last week, and that appears to be where the Lady Bulldogs landed in the overall field. Oklahoma Baptist was ranked No. 23.
"We're in a great bracket," Cumberland coach Clint Mason said late Wednesday. "It show a lot about how far our program's come. It was a real compliment to where our program was and where it is.
"I thought we were going to be a four, so I was surprised by getting a three."
This is the third straight year Cumberland has advanced to the Nationals and fourth overall since 1999. The Lady Bulldogs won their first-round game two seasons ago to reach the Sweet 16.
In addition to their record, the Lady Bulldogs have seven wins over tournament teams – Lambuth, Freed-Hardeman, Union, Xavier [La.], Loyola [La.], Houston Baptist and Brescia.
"I think that's why we got a high seed because of our schedule and how strong our conference is," Mason said.
Cumberland is one of five TranSouth Conference teams in the tournament. Trevecca, coached by Mt. Juliet's Gary VanAtta and featuring MJ players Kristin Archie, Christian Gibson and Paige McFarlin, is a No. 2 seed and will face No. 7 Westmont [Calif.] at 1:45 p.m. next Wednesday. The neighboring rivals are bracketed to meet in the March 19 semifinals. The Lady Trojans are in the same bracket with top-ranked and undefeated Vanguard [Calif.].
Also from the TranSouth are Freed-Hardeman, Union and Lambuth. Union, the two-time defending national champion and reigning TSC champ, is a No. 1 seed and can't face Cumberland until the March 20 title game.
A sixth team from Tennessee, Lee University, is the top seed in Cumberland's bracket and will open with Brescia.
Should Cumberland win, the Lady Bulldogs would face the winner of No. 7 Columbia [Mo.] and No. 2 Lewis-Clark [Idaho] State at 12:30 p.m. March 16. The quarterfinals, the earliest CU could face Lee, would be at 4 p.m. March 17.
The other No. 1 seed is Saint Xavier [Ill.], in the bracket with Lambuth.
Oklahoma Baptist is 17-12 and comes out of the Sooner Athletic Conference, which also received five bids to the tournament.
"Oklahoma Baptist is going to be a halfcourt team," Mason said. "We're going to have to get uptempo and press. We're going to have to use all 94 feet of the court.
"If the game is in the 50s, it favors Oklahoma Baptist. If it's in the 70s or 80s, it favors us because they're a great defensive team."
This is the second straight year Cumberland will play the tip-off game of the day. Last year, the Lady Bulldogs faced University of the Cumberlands [Ky.] in the very first game of the tourney and, after fighting back from a sluggish start, lost on a last-second shot. This year, they play the opening game of the second day. Just about all of the Lady Bulldogs except Kiana Robinson and Keisha Forrest were on the team last year.
"Us getting the early game after playing the early game last year is a bonus for us," Mason said. "We all are used to playing the early game."
There's one other advantage to playing first.
"One thing that's good about playing the first game is instead of 10 minutes warmup, we've got the floor for 30 minutes," Mason said.
Mason, whose Lady Bulldogs haven't played since a blowout loss at Freed-Hardeman in the TSC quarterfinals a week ago, have had three good days of practice this week. After a day off today, they'll study film and return to practice Friday. They'll leave for Jackson on Tuesday.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.