Talladega (the GCAC regular season champion), Xavier (the GCAC tournament champion) and Langston (Red River Tournament Semifinalist) have made it into the field of 32 for the 2016 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. This is the first time that the GCAC conference has had multiple teams in the tournament since 2014 when these same two schools qualified in the same way. Langston is making its third straight trip to the tournament.
The Talladega Lady Tornadoes (23-6) enter the tournament as an at-large selection and the No. 4 seed in the Duer Bracket. They open play on Thurday, March 17, at 4:30 p.m. when they face fifth-seeded Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) (26-6). The winner will face either No. 1 seed Westmont (Calif.) or eight seed Huston-Tillotson (Texas). Talladega is making its second-ever tournament appearance. They are 0-1 all-time. The Lady Tornadoes are led by GCAC Player of the Year Shakeena Benton (17.2 ppg) and two-time First Team All-GCAC selection Tajanee Wells (15.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg). Talladega went 3-4 against teams in this year's tournament, including a win over No. 2 seed Campbellsville (Ky.), which faces Xavier in the first round.
Xavier (22-11) received the GCAC's automatic bid after winning the conference tournament on Mar. 6 with a 75-68 victory over Talladega in the final. The Gold Nuggets are making their 19th appearance at nationals, tied for the fourth-most appearances in tournament history. They have compiled an 8-18 record at the tournament over the years. Xavier, the seventh seed in the Naismith Bracket, will face No. 2 seed Campbellsville, who is making its record 24th appearance at nationals. The Nuggets will look to three-time All-GCAC selection and two-time tournament MVP Whitney Gathright (14.4 ppg, 2.2 spg) and Second Team All-GCAC selections Donyeah Mayfield (10.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Trana Hopkins (9.6 ppg, 1.6 spg) to help them pull the upset. Xavier is 6-4 against teams in this year's field.
The Langston Lady Lions (20-7) received an at-large bid and a seventh seed in the Cramer Bracket; they square off against the second-seed Shawnee State (Ohio) (28-5) on Wednesday, March 16 at 4 p.m.
The event will be held at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Mo., for the second-straight season from March 16 – 22.
This year's field is comprised of 14 automatic berths, 17 at-large selections and championship host William Woods (Mo.). Automatic qualification is given to conference regular-season champions, tournament champions or tournament runners-up depending on the league. At-large teams were determined using the final regular-season Coaches' Top 25 poll.
The NAIA Network – the association's official video streaming home – will broadcast the first 30 games leading up to the championship final on ESPN3. The video platform, powered by Stretch Internet, allows users access to live video, statistics, and social interaction on a number of devices, including mobile.