MOUNT VERNON – An automatic NCAA berth is on the line this weekend as Cornell College hosts the 2013 Midwest Conference Women's Basketball Tournament in the Small Multi-Sport Center.
The nationally-ranked Rams (22-1) earned the No. 1 seed as MWC regular-season champions with a 17-1 mark in league play. Cornell takes on No. 4 seed Carroll (13-8, 12-6 MWC) in a semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday. The second semifinal pits No. 2 seed Monmouth (19-4, 14-4 MWC) against No. 3 seed St. Norbert (15-8, 12-6 MWC) at 7 p.m. Friday.
The championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday in Mount Vernon. The winner receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, which begins with first- and second-round games March 1-2.
Daily admission for the MWC Tournament is $6 for adults and $3 for ages 6-18. Children 5-and-under are free of charge. All Cornell students, faculty and staff and those from competing schools are also admitted free with a valid ID. No purple passes will be allowed.
Complete tournament information can be found at MWC Women's Basketball Tournament.
The record-setting Rams, led by eighth-year head coach Brent Brase, claimed the program's first conference title since 1982 and are now after the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. Cornell is ranked No. 14 in the USA Today Sports Division III Top 25 Coaches' Poll, and No. 15 in the D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll. The Rams are No. 1 in the latest Central Region rankings.
Cornell is 13-0 at home this season, although the closest call came against Carroll, 64-61, on Dec. 11. The Rams rolled past the Pioneers in the second meeting, 80-65, on Feb. 2 in Waukesha, Wis.
The Rams beat Monmouth twice in the regular season – 64-60 on the road, and 71-53 at home last month. Cornell's lone loss of the season was a 47-44 decision at St. Norbert on Jan. 19. The Rams beat the Green Knights, 63-42, in the MWC opener Dec. 1.
Cornell finished the regular season atop the MWC in scoring margin (+19.9 ppg), free throw percentage (74.3), field goal percentage (46.6), field goal percentage defense (33.2), rebound margin (+12.2 rpg), assists (17.7 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (+1.0 pg).
Rams in the MWC Tourney – Cornell makes its fifth overall appearance in the MWC Tournament, which started as a one-game playoff in 1984 between North and South Division champions to determine the conference champion.
The Rams represented the South Division in the inaugural 1984 championship, falling 93-37 to St. Norbert. Cornell also played for the conference tournament title in 1986, 1987 and 1988, again bowing out to St. Norbert on each occasion.
Cornell's last appearance in the MWC Tournament was 1988, when it dropped the title game, 86-56. The only year Cornell hosted the tournament was 1987.
Rest of the field – Monmouth is the reigning MWC Tournament champion, taking the 2012 crown as the No. 2 seed with a 75-67 victory over No. 4 seed Carroll. With the title, the Fighting Scots earned their first-ever trip to the national tournament.
St. Norbert has won three of the last five MWC Tournaments and owns a league-best 10 titles overall. The Green Knights have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 10 times since 1983, including recent trips in 2011, 2010 and 2008.
Carroll captured its lone MWC Tournament championship in 2006. The Pioneers have gone to the NCAA Tournament five times, their last as an at-large qualifier in 2007.