Bears receive at-large bid to NCAA tournament

| Executive Editor

Then graduate student Jaimie McFarlin and senior Zoë Unruh hoist the 2010 Division III national championship trophy after the Bears defeated Hope College in the title game. Wash. U. and Hope could meet for the third time in under a year if each team wins its opening round game of the 2011 Division III NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship on Friday.Matt Mitgang | Student Life

Then graduate student Jaimie McFarlin and senior Zoë Unruh hoist the 2010 Division III national championship trophy after the Bears defeated Hope College in the title game. Wash. U. and Hope could meet for the third time in under a year if each team wins its opening round game of the 2011 Division III NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship on Friday.

The defending national champions have reached the postseason for the 22nd straight season.

The No. 12 Washington University women’s basketball team will face No. 10 Denison University in the opening round of the 2011 Division III NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship tournament on Friday night in Holland, Mich., as announced Monday by the NCAA Selection Committee.

“I felt like the body of work that these kids have accomplished, the kids deserve it,” head coach Nancy Fahey said. “We value the opportunity and are very excited to practice in March.”

The Bears received an at-large bid to the tournament after finishing the season 20-5 (11-3 University Athletic Association). The Bears finished second in the UAA to conference champion University of Chicago.

Wash. U. will need to play through a tough section of the tournament bracket in order to repeat as national champions. The Bears have been placed in the same opening section as host team No. 4 Hope College, No. 8 DePauw University and Denison.

The Bears have faced Denison (28-0, 14-0 North Coast Athletic Conference) twice in program history, with Wash. U. winning both match-ups.

The lack of familiarity of the Bears with Denison cannot be said of Hope and DePauw. After losing the 2009 national championship game to George Fox University in Holland, Mich., the Bears then defeated Hope in the 2010 national championship game to win their first title in nine years. In a rematch of the title game this season, The Flying Dutch, then ranked No. 2, defeated the then-No. 4 Bears 49-47 in a neutral site game.

The Bears also know the DePauw University Tigers well, as both teams compete in the annual Tip-Off Tournament every year along with Illinois Wesleyan University. The Bears defeated the Tigers 58-56 at DePauw in the consolation game of the tournament this year.

Three of the four teams playing in Holland have won national championships in the last six seasons. Hope won the title in 2006, and DePauw defeated Wash. U. in the 2007 national championship game.

“It’s a very tough bracket….I think it’s going to be a great bracket. Familiarity is great, but at the same time, they’re familiar with us….Hopefully we can take it one game at a time and see what happens.”

Chicago is also in the Bears’ quarter of the draw, and the two teams could meet for the third time this season in the quarterfinal round on March 14.

The University of Rochester has also reached the tournament out of the UAA.

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