Opening round preview: Bulldogs bound for Bluegrass State

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 6, 2022 in Women's Basketball

2022 WBB National Tournament Press Guide

SEWARD, Neb. – Plans and preparations are in place for the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team to make its way to Bowling Green, Ky., for the opening round of the 2022 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship. The Bulldogs were tabbed with a No. 9 seed and assigned to a four-team pod in Kentucky, where the Mid-South Conference and Campbellsville University will serve as the hosts. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will take on eighth-seeded Benedictine College (Kan.) at 4:30 p.m. CT on Friday.

Opening Round Info (March 11-12)
-Host: Mid-South Conference/Campbellsville University
-Site: Bowling Green High School (Bowling Green, Ky.)
-Tickets (must be purchased online):
--NOTE: There are no attendance limits. Masking is recommended but not required.
-Live Streaming Link: (pay-per-view)
-Live Stats: Presto Stats

Game Schedule

2022 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship Bracket (PDF)

Friday, March 11: (9) Concordia (16-13) vs. (8) Benedictine (21-10), 4:30 p.m. CT

Friday, March 11: (1) Campbellsville (29-4) vs. (16) Rochester (23-9), 7 p.m. CT

Saturday, March 12: Concordia/Benedictine vs. Campbellsville/Rochester, 4 p.m. CT
(Opening Round Final – winner advances to the final site)

By the numbers

·        NAIA basketball transitioned from two divisions to one division beginning with the 2020-21 season. The national tournament field last season included 48 teams. In other words, this will mark the first year of a 64-team bracket within the NAIA. The sixteen winners of each of the pods will advance to play at the final site, the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. For the 2021 national tournament, the opening round sites featured pods of three teams. During last year’s run, the Bulldogs picked up national tournament wins over Loyola University New Orleans, 71-54, and over No. 4 Marian University (Ind.), 73-67, while reaching the national quarterfinals.

·        This year will mark national tournament appearance No. 21 (11th in a row) for the program. In its first 20 appearances at the national championships, Concordia has posted a record of 37-18 with seven journeys to at least the national semifinals (three national championship game appearances). The Bulldogs are 14-6 in first-round games. All of the program’s national tournament berths have come since 1992 – the same year the NAIA split into two divisions for basketball. The 2019-20 season marked the final one featuring two divisions. The 2019-20 squad had garnered the No. 1 overall seed in a tournament that was shut down in the middle of the first round.

·        According to the NAIA’s official metrics, Concordia enters the national tournament with the 40th ranked RPI in the nation. In addition, the Bulldogs have played the No. 1 strength of schedule in the entire NAIA. They were rated seventh in the final North/Central ARC rankings, which evaluates teams within geographic regions. It’s safe to say Concordia is battle-tested. Of their 29 games, 16 of them came against fellow national qualifiers. The Bulldogs own five wins over 2022 qualifiers having beaten Briar Cliff, Dakota State University (S.D.), Dakota Wesleyan, Northwestern and Wayland Baptist University (Texas). At the Hoop N Surf Classic in Hawaii, Concordia dropped a 64-57 decision to Campbellsville, the No. 1 seed in its pod.

·        All-GPAC accolades were announced on March 2 by the conference. The award winners for Concordia included Taysha Rushton (first team), Rylee Pauli (honorable mention), Sadie Powell (honorable mention) and Mackenzie Toomey (honorable mention). Rushton has been named First Team All-GPAC in back-to-back seasons. A prolific scorer from day one, Rushton is averaging 17.9 points per game this season, third most among GPAC players. She is shooting 38.7 percent from the field, 33.8 percent from 3-point range and 75.4 percent from the foul line. In addition, Rushton is averaging 2.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Over her first two seasons as a Bulldog, Rushton has piled up 947 points, 151 assists, 145 3-point field goals and 94 steals. Meanwhile, Pauli has twice garnered honorable mention recognition and Powell and Toomey were honored by the GPAC for the first time in their careers.

·        Nine of the 15 players on Concordia’s national tournament roster have prior national tournament experience. That list includes Kendal Brigham, Bailey Conrad, Taylor Farrell, Kayla Luebbe, Rylee Pauli, Sadie Powell, Taysha Rushton, Chloe Schumacher and Mackenzie Toomey. Pauli has appeared at the national tournament in each of the past three seasons. She put together a memorable performance in last year’s 73-67 win over No. 4 Marian. In that victory, Pauli notched 17 points and six rebounds. Meanwhile, Rushton topped all players with 27 points in the win. Pauli, Schumacher and Mackenzie Koepke (out with injury) were each part of the 2018-19 national championship team. Koepke has totaled 61 career points in national tournament games.

·        Olson has been at the controls for each of Concordia’s past 14 national tournament appearances (including 2022). His record at the national tournament stands at 26-11 with five trips to the final four, including three national championship game appearances (2015, 2018, 2019). The program raised its first-ever national championship banner in March 2019. Olson has won more national tournament games than any coach in school history (men’s or women’s programs).

·        On this season’s roster, 10 Bulldogs average at least 4.6 points and double-digit minutes per game. Each of the following players have produced at least one game with 19 or more points: Rushton (high of 32), Lauren Baker (24), Powell (21), Luebbe (20), Pauli (20), Brigham (19), Abby Heemstra (19) and Toomey (19). A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, Powell has emerged in her second season as the team’s second leading scorer with an average of 9.1 points per game. Powell is also the team’s second leading rebounder behind Pauli.

Opponent breakdown

(8) Benedictine College
Overall Record: 21-10
Location: Atchison, Kansas
Conference: Heart of America Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Chad Folsom
RPI: 35th
SOS: 39th
O-PPG: 68.0
D-PPG: 57.9
All-Conference: Skylar Washington (first team); Ali Brzozowski (second team); Natalie Smaron (second team); Aaliyah Raines (honorable mention); Kennedy Nicholson (honorable mention).

(1) Campbellsville University
Overall Record: 29-4
Location: Campbellsville, Kentucky
Conference: Mid-South Conference
Head Coach: Ginger High Colvin
RPI: 5th
SOS: 49th
O-PPG: 75.5
D-PPG: 59.3
All-Conference: Lauren Lee (first team); Courtney Pritchett (first team); Lexy Lake (second team).

(16) Rochester University
Overall Record: 23-9
Location: Rochester Hills, Michigan
Conference: Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Brent Wichtner
RPI: 49th
SOS: 143rd
O-PPG: 78.2
D-PPG: 71.1
All-Conference: Elysia Mattos (first team; all-defensive team); Lauren Wynn (second team; newcomer of the year); Jacara Thompson (second team); Hannah Reinhold (second team).

Final site

The hopeful destination for the Bulldogs remains the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The final 16 teams left standing will advance to that location for action from March 17-22. Sioux City first became the women’s basketball national championship host for division II in 1998. It was awarded as the host location for the NAIA’s one and only division beginning in 2021. Additional information about the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship can be found via the NAIA website HERE.