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Wayne Cavadi | | April 2, 2023

How the DII women's basketball championship tournament works

Lubbock Christian wins DII women's basketball championship

The NCAA DII Women's Basketball Tournament pits 64 teams in the hunt for the most sought-after hardware in DII women's basketball.

Let’s take a look at how the NCAA DII women’s basketball tournament works. 

2023 RECAP: Ashland wins the 2023 national championship

What is the selection process for the DII women’s basketball tournament?

Like March Madness on the Division I level, there are 64 teams that enter the DII women’s basketball tournament. Twenty-three teams get into the bracket by winning their respective conference tournaments and getting an automatic bid. Those 23 conferences are split up into eight regions. It looks like this:

Atlantic CIAA, MEC, PSAC (Independent — 2)*
East CACC, ECC, NE10
Midwest GLIAC, GLVC, G-MAC, (Independent — 1)*
South GSC, SIAC, SSC (Independent — 3)*
South Central LSC, RMAC
Southeast CC, PBC, SAC
West CCAA, GNAC, PacWest

(* = Independents do not receive automatic bids)

Now, how about those other 41 teams? We get an early look at that decision process three weeks before the season ends. This is when the NCAA releases its first regional rankings. Those rankings, released every Wednesday of each of the final three weeks of the season, ranks the top 10 teams per region. The top 8 of those will be the ones who make the bracket.

Of course, this changes over the course of three weeks but helps both the committee and fans alike keep an eye on who has a chance to be in the field of 64 as early as February.

Once the conference tournaments are complete and the 23 automatic bids are resolved, the DII women’s basketball selection committee has some choices to make. What are they looking for?

It starts with the schedule, with each team required to have competed against at least 22 DII women's basketball programs, 18 of which need to be in-region. If the program meets those qualifications, the committee considers the following:

  • DII in-region winning percentage
  • Overall DII winning percentage
  • Strength of schedule against DII programs
  • Head-to-head wins and losses against DII programs
  • Results against common DII opponents
  • In-region RPI 
  • Performance indicator
  • Record vs. ranked teams

Once the committee comes to its consensus 40 at-large teams, the 64-team bracket is announced in a Selection Show on the Sunday before the tournament begins.

What does the DII women’s basketball championship bracket look like?

The championship bracket is set up like the traditional 64-team bracket we have become accustomed to thanks to March Madness. There are four quadrants with two regions each. Then the real fun begins.

Eight single-elimination regional tournaments kick off the tournament, with each of the eight regional champions heading to one final site location for the final three rounds of play. The entire duration of these three rounds is referred to as the DII Women's Elite Eight. 

The DII Women’s Elite Eight field took on a new look in 2017. The advancing teams were seeded Nos. 1 through 8. The No. 1 overall seed has won just once since the change, and that was the undefeated 2017 Ashland Eagles.

Important dates for the 2022 DII women’s basketball tournament

Here are the dates you need to know for the coming DII women’s basketball championship. The DII Women's Elite Eight heads to the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Alabama for the final three rounds. 

First regional rankings released Wed., Feb. 19 TBD On
Selection show Sun., March 6 10:30 p.m. ET On
Regional rounds (Rounds 1-3) March 11, 12 and 14 TBD TBD
Elite Eight Tues., March 21 Begins noon ET On
National semifinals Wed. March 23 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m. ET CBS Sports Network
Championship game Fri., March 25 7 p.m. ET CBS Sports Network

When did the DII women’s basketball tournament begin?

The first DII women's basketball championship took place in 1982 in Springfield, Mass. Cal Poly Pomona defeated Tuskegee 93-74 to become the first national champions in the sport's history and two years later, those same Broncos became the first team to repeat as champions.

The tournament spent the first six years in Springfield, the longest consecutive tenure at any of its stopping points. The 2019 championship was played in Columbus, Ohio where Lubbock Christian defeated Southwestern Oklahoma State for its second title in four years. This is certainly noteworthy when you consider that Lubbock Christian has only been a DII program for four seasons. 

DII women’s basketball history

Ashland has certainly had a bit of a monopoly on the DII women's basketball landscape since 2012. The Eagles have been in four of those national championship games, winning two of them. Cal Poly Pomona, the winners of that first-ever DII women's basketball national championship are still tied as the winners of the most titles in the sport's history with five. There is no denying that Lubbock Christian is the current DII dynasty with three trips to the Elite Eight in four years resulting in two titles.

You can see which programs have the most titles here and take a look at the complete history of the national championship game below.

2023 Ashland (37-0) Kari Pickens 78-67 Minnesota Duluth Dallas, TX
2022 Glenville State (35-1) Kim Stephens 85-72 Western Washington Birmingham, AL
2021 Lubbock Christian(23-0) Steve Gomez 69-59 Drury Columbus, Ohio
2020 No tournament (COVID)        
2019 Lubbock Christian (32-5) Steve Gomez 95-85 (2OT) Southwestern Oklahoma State Columbus, Ohio
2018 Central Missouri (30-3) Dave Slifer 66-52 Ashland Sioux Falls, S.D.
2017 Ashland (37-0) Robyn Fralick 93-77 Virginia Union Columbus, Ohio
2016 Lubbock Christian (35-0) Steve Gomez 78-73 Alaska-Anch. Indianapolis
2015 California (Pa.) (32-4) Jess Strom 86-69 Cal Baptist Sioux Falls, S.D.
2014 Bentley (35-0) Barbara Stevens 73-65 West Texas A&M Erie, Pa.
2013 Ashland (38-1) Sue Ramsey 71-56 Dowling San Antonio
2012 Shaw (29-6) Jacques Curtis 88-82 Ashland San Antonio
2011 Clayton State (35-1) Dennis Cox 69-50 Michigan Tech St. Joseph, Mo.
2010 Emporia State (30-5) Brandon Schneider 65-53 Fort Lewis St. Joseph, Mo.
2009 Minnesota State-Mankato (32-2) Pam Gohl 103-94 Franklin Pierce San Antonio
2008 Northern Kentucky (28-8) Nancy Winstel 63-58 South Dakota Kearney, Neb.
2007 Southern Connecticut State (34-2) Joe Frager 61-45 Florida Gulf Coast Kearney, Neb.
2006 Grand Valley State (33-3) Dawn Plitzuweit 58-52 American International Hot Springs, Ark.
2005 Washburn (35-2) Ron McHenry 70-53 Seattle Pacific Hot Springs, Ark.
2004 California (PA) (35-1) Darcie Vincent 75-72 Drury St. Joseph, Mo.
2003 South Dakota State (32-3) Aaron Johnston 65-50 Northern Kentucky St. Joseph, Mo.
2002 Cal Poly Pomona (28-4) Paul Thomas 74-62 Southeastern Oklahoma Rochester, Minn.
2001 Cal Poly Pomona (27-3) Paul Thomas 87-80 (ot) North Dakota Rochester, Minn.
2000 Northern Kentucky (32-2) Nancy Winstel 71-62 (ot) North Dakota State Pine Bluff, Ark.
1999 North Dakota (31-1) Gene Roebuck 80-63 Arkansas Tech Pine Bluff, Ark.
1998 North Dakota (31-1) Gene Roebuck 92-76 Emporia State Pine Bluff, Ark.
1997 North Dakota (28-4) Gene Roebuck 94-78 Southern Indiana Grand Forks, N.D.
1996 North Dakota State (30-2) Amy Ruley 104-78 Shippensburg Fargo, N.D.
1995 North Dakota State (32-0) Amy Ruley 98-85 Portland State Fargo, N.D.
1994 North Dakota State (27-5) Amy Ruley 89-56 Cal State San B'dino Fargo, N.D.
1993 North Dakota State (30-2) Amy Ruley 95-63 Delta State Waltham, Mass.
1992 Delta State (30-4) Lloyd Clark 65-63 North Dakota State Fargo, N.D.
1991 North Dakota State (31-2) Amy Ruley 81-74 Southeast Missouri State Cape Giradeau, Mo.
1990 Delta State (32-1) Lloyd Clark 77-43 Bentley Pomona, Calif.
1989 Delta State (30-4) Lloyd Clark 88-58 Cal Poly Pomona Cleveland, Miss.
1988 Hampton (33-1) James Sweat 65-48 West Texas A&M Fargo, N.D.
1987 New Haven (29-2) Jan Rossman 77-75 Cal Poly Pomona Springfield, Mass.
1986 Cal Poly Pomona (30-3) Darlene May 70-63 North Dakota State Springfield, Mass.
1985 Cal Poly Pomona (26-7) Darlene May 80-69 Central Missouri Springfield, Mass.
1984 Central Missouri (27-5) Jorja Hoehn 80-73 Virginia Union Springfield, Mass.
1983 Virginia Union (27-2) Louis Hearn 73-60 Cal Poly Pomona Springfield, Mass.
1982 Cal Poly Pomona (29-7) Darlene May 93-74 Tuskegee Springfield, Mass.

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