HADLEY, Mass. – Defending national champion Amherst College will have the opportunity to defend its title when the Lord Jeffs open play in the 2012 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on Friday evening at home.
The Lord Jeffs (27-0), who won their third NESCAC title this past weekend, were announced as one of the 64 participating teams in this year’s tournament on Monday afternoon. Also joining Amherst from the conference are Tufts (21-6) and Bowdoin (19-7). The Jumbos will host a first and second round set for the first time ever at Cousens Gymnasium this weekend, while the Polar Bears will travel to Ithaca, N.Y.
All first round games are Friday with second round contests taking place on Saturday.
The Jeffs and Polar Bears are on the same side of the bracket but cannot potentially meet until the national semifinals. The Jumbos are on the opposite side of the bracket, meaning they could not possibly face either Amherst or Bowdoin until the national championship game. The 2012 NCAA semifinals and final are being hosted by Hope College in Holland, Mich., on March 16-17.
Amherst, one of four undefeated teams in this year’s tournament, will face St. Joseph’s of Brooklyn (13-13), which earned a Pool B berth into this year’s championship as an NCAA Division III independent. Also at Amherst this weekend will be Babson (25-2), champions of the New England Women’s & Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) and Bridgewater St. (19-7), the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) champions.
Tufts, which finished as the runner-up to Amherst in the NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship this past weekend, will take on Misericordia (17-10), the champion of the Freedom Conference. Joining the two at Cousens will be Johns Hopkins (23-4) and the Univ. of New England (22-5), both at-large selections to this year’s tournament. Johns Hopkins comes from the Centennial Conference, while UNE is a member of the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
Bowdoin, an at-large selection from the NESCAC along with Tufts, will take on Maine rival Southern Maine (21-6), an at-large representative from the Little East Conference. The two teams will play at Ithaca College (23-4). The host Bombers, who won their way into the tournament by claiming the Empire 8 title, will take on Elms (20-8), champions of the New England Collegiate Conference.
The Lord Jeffs have reached the national semifinals in each of the last three years and became the first conference team to win the NCAA title last winter. This will be the fifth overall appearance for Amherst in the NCAA Tournament, with all five showings coming in the last five years.
The Polar Bears will make their 12th consecutive appearance and 13th overall in the tournament. Bowdoin, which reached the national title game in 2004 but fell 59-53 to Wilmington (Ohio), lost in overtime to Babson in last year’s sectional round, 61-58.
After missing the cut last year, the Jumbos are back for the fourth time in program history, as all four appearances have come in the last five years. Tufts advanced as far as the national quarterfinals in 2008, coming up short to Messiah 55-49.
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