INDIANAPOLIS - The Fort Hays State women's basketball team is ranked first in the final release of the NCAA Division II Central Region Rankings, announced Wednesday (March 3) by the national office.
Due to the disparity of games played this season and the limited data available, schools were listed as "under consideration" for the first two sets of regional rankings before they were officially ranked for this third and final release. Fort Hays State was listed in all three sets of regional rankings.
The MIAA had five teams listed amongst the top eight, while the Northern Sun had three teams listed in the top six. Central Missouri is behind the Tigers in second, while the NSIC regular season and tournament champions Minnesota Duluth occupy the No. 3 spot. Nebraska-Kearney is fourth, followed by St. Cloud State and Augustana from the NSIC. Emporia State and Central Oklahoma round out the top eight teams in the region.
The Central Region will look a little different this year, including only teams from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) and the Northern Sun (NSIC). The change was made when the NCAA Division II Management Council and Presidents Council approved adjusting regional alignments for the 2021 Division II men's and women's basketball championships to better balance the number of active teams in each regional while trying to maintain geographic proximity for the schools in the regional.
Prior to the approval, three regionals had 15 or fewer active teams, while three others had 36 or more active teams. The one-year regions keep seven of the eight regions between 27-33 active teams. As a result, teams in the Great American Conference (GAC) will now compete in the South Central Region for this year only.
The NCAA has also reduced field sizes at all Division II Championship events for the 2020-21 season, with basketball moving from 64 to 48 teams. As a result, just six teams will compete in the Central Regional, including automatic bids to the winners of the MIAA Championship Tournament, presented by Citizens Bank & Trust and the NSIC tournament in addition to four at-large selections.
Instead of the top overall seed hosting the regional tournament, the six teams selected will compete at a predetermined site, the UCM Multipurpose Building in Warrensburg, Mo., March 12-15. The No. 3-6 seeds will play an opening round game on Friday, March 12, with the winners playing the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds on Saturday, March 13. The Central Region championship game will follow on Monday, March 15.
Fort Hays State leads the region in wins and has the top performance indicator in the region at 16.273.
Final selections for the 2021 NCAA Division II Central Region Championships will be announced Sunday evening at 9 p.m. CT on NCAA.com.
The Tigers will look to lock up the MIAA's automatic bid this week when they play in the 2021 MIAA Championship Tournament. FHSU hosts Missouri Southern Wednesday in the quarterfinals and would then host the semifinals and championship rounds on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, with a win on Wednesday.
NCAA DII Central Region Rankings - March 3, 2021
1. Fort Hays State 20-2 (20-2 In Region)
2. Central Missouri 19-3 (19-3 In Region)
3. Minnesota Duluth 13-1 (13-1 In Region)
4. Nebraska-Kearney 19-3) (19-3 In Region)
5. St. Cloud State 12-5 (12-5 In Region)
6. Augustana (S.D) 12-5 (12-5 In Region)
7. Emporia State 17-5 (17-5 In Region)
8. Central Oklahoma 14-8 (14-8 In Region)