UNK Hosts NCAA Division II Elite Eight Womens Basketball Tournament March 26, 27 & 29

Renee Ballenger

For the second consecutive season, NCAA Division II women’s college basketball teams from around the nation are striving to get to Kearney and the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

UNK will host the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament March 26, 27 and 29 at the Health & Sports Center.

The semifinals on Thursday, March 27, and the national championship game on the Saturday, March 29, will be carried live by the ESPN family of networks.

The Division II tournament starts on Friday, March 14, with 64 teams, paired into eight regions of eight teams. Each region winner then advances to the Elite Eight.

Last year, Southern Connecticut State University beat Florida Gulf Coast University, 61-45, in the national championship game.

A crowd of 3,091 watched the Owls beat the Eagles in that title game. Overall, the event brought around 11,000 fans to the Health & Sports Center. Many of those fans were elementary school students from around Kearney. UNK student-athletes will again spend time before the Elite Eight talking to young students about sportsmanship, teamwork and goal setting.

Then, the week of the tournament, all eight teams will visit designated schools and continue the learning process. Many of the schools will then come to the Elite Eight and cheer on their favorite team, bringing some extra energy to the event.

“Hopefully, the UNK Lopers will be able to win three times in the NCAA’s and play for a national title with these young students cheering them on,” said Peter Yazvac, UNK director of Sports Information.

Having a 22-5 record as of Feb. 18, the Lopers ended a long NCAA losing streak last season by upsetting Augustana College (South Dakota) and Concordia University-St. Paul (Minnesota) to make it to the North Central Region finals.

The University of North Dakota ended UNK’s “Cinderella” run in the finals and will be one of the teams to beat again this year.

All session tournament passes are currently on sale at the UNK Athletics Department ticket office: $35 for adults and $25 for seniors and students.

The first 500 fans who buy tournament passes will receive a commemorative miniature replica of the Health & Sports Center championship court.

“This ‘mini-court’ is made of solid wood flooring material and is a great way to capture a piece of Kearney and UNK history,” Yazvac said.

Individual session passes will go on sale the day of the game. There will be a total of four sessions in the tournament. Single session adult tickets are $10, with seniors and students paying $8 per session.