Amherst Selected as NCAA Tournament Host
Amherst will begin its NCAA title defense this Friday.
Contact: Justin Long
AMHERST, Mass. – Amherst College has been selected as a regional host site for the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship. The Lord Jeffs will begin their national title defense against St. Joseph’s College (Brooklyn) on Friday, Mar. 2.
Also heading to Amherst for the tournament’s opening round are Babson College and Bridgewater State University, with Friday’s winners advancing to face each other Saturday in the second round. A complete bracket is available here.
Babson vs. Bridgewater State --- 6 p.m.
Amherst vs. St. Joseph's --- 8 p.m.
Second Round --- 8 p.m.
Ticket Information: Tickets for this weekend's games will cost $6 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. Children under 2 will be admitted free of charge, as will Amherst College students with a current valid ID. Tickets for Friday's games will go on sale when doors to LeFrak Gymnasium open at 5 p.m. For Saturday's game, tickets will go on sale when doors to LeFrak Gymnasium open at 4:30 p.m.
Amherst Tournament History: This is Amherst’s fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, with the Jeffs posting a 17-4 record in their first four trips to the big dance. Head coach G.P. Gromacki has seen an improvement each season, having advanced to the Round of 16 in 2008 before finishing fourth in 2009 and third in 2010. Last year Amherst made a third consecutive appearance in the Final Four and finally broke through, defeating Washington-St. Louis in the title game for the program’s first national championship.
Scouting St. Joseph’s: In their debut season as a full NCAA Division III member, the Lady Bears (13-13) qualified for their first NCAA Tournament by way of a Pool B bid. With 64 spots up for grabs, the NCAA awards 43 to conference champions (Pool A) and another 20 to at-large selections (Pool C), with that 64th berth going to a team that competes in a conference that does not award an automatic bid for its champion.
Competing in the Hudson Valley Women’s Athletic Conference, Saint Joseph’s earned the top seed in the championship tournament but suffered a 67-48 loss to the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in the title game. The loss put a stop to a 10-game win streak that lasted nearly a month, marking the program’s longest unbeaten stretch in eight seasons.
The Bears are led by senior guard Ashley McQuillan, who averages 13.8 points and 2.8 assists per game. Janine Doran ’13 adds 10.6 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds per contest, while sophomores Kelly McNamee and Megan Moran chip in with 8.0 points apiece. Saint Joseph’s will need to be at its best in the paint in order to handle Amherst’s size, as no player on the roster is listed at taller than 5’9.
Scouting Babson: The Beavers (25-2) have become quite familiar with Amherst, having been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by the Lord Jeffs in LeFrak Gymnasium in each of the past three years. They punched their ticket to this year’s tournament by cruising to a fourth consecutive NEWMAC title, as Babson is outscoring opponents by an average of 29.2 points during its dominant 17-game win streak.
Babson’s 61-39 loss at Williams on Nov. 20 marked its first regular-season setback in nearly two years, but the Beavers have put that game behind them to reestablish themselves as one of the best teams in Division III. In addition to leading the country in field goal percentage (.465) and rebounding margin (+15.1), Babson boasts the best field goal percentage defense in the nation (.292).
The heart of the Babson team continues to be the outstanding trio of Nicki Wurdeman (6’1), Kathleen King (6’0) and Sarah Collins (6’2). Wurdeman (17.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is the first player in program history to record 2,000 points, Collins is averaging a double-double (16.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg), and King can do a little bit of everything (15.6 ppg, 9.9 rpg). With all three players shooting at 45.0 percent or better, they have been a matchup nightmare for teams throughout the season.
Scouting Bridgewater State: The Bears (19-7) are making a seventh NCAA Tournament appearance after successfully defending their MASCAC Championship title. Bridgewater opened the season with a 5-5 record—including losses to Tufts, Kean and Williams—but has gone 14-2 since, with those two setbacks coming by a total of four points.
Senior forward Shelly DePina led the Bears to the MASCAC title by shooting 72.0 percent in the tournament’s two games, notably scoring a career-high 28 points in the finals. Ranked fifth on the program’s all-time scoring list, DePina paces her team with 14.5 points per game and adds 7.2 rebounds.
Bridgewater features six other players who average at least 4.5 points per game, including guards Jenna Williamson ’14 (13.5 ppg) and Michaela Cosby ’13 (13.2 ppg), who also combine for 6.2 assists and 9.7 rebounds per outing. Sophomore forward Megan Boutilette leads the team with 8.2 rebounds to go along with her 7.2 points, but she will have her hands full with Babson’s exceptional post players.
Scouting Amherst: The Lord Jeffs (27-0) earned the NESCAC’s automatic bid for the third consecutive year by pulling away for a 65-39 win over Tufts in the conference’s title game. Amherst has won 46 consecutive games and will get a chance to build on its 63-game home winning streak, which includes a 22-0 record in postseason play.
Amherst is one of only four undefeated teams remaining in Division III, but the defending national champs have been tested several times this year. The Jeffs have been tied or trailing at halftime in three games and leading by three or fewer in two others, but they are shooting 48.9 percent in the second halves of those contests. Amherst trailed for the majority of the second half at Colby, only to have Caroline Stedman ’12 knock down the winning shot with 18 seconds to go.
Megan Robertson '15 leads the NESCAC
with 3.78 offensive rebounds per game.
The Jeffs join Babson as one of the best defensive teams in Division III, as they rank nationally in the top three in field goal percentage defense (.293, 2nd), blocks (7.1, 3rd) and scoring defense (45.6 ppg, 3rd). Kim Fiorentino ’12 established herself as a standout defender last year, and this past weekend she recorded five steals and two blocks to help hold Tufts to 19.2 percent shooting in the second half.
Fiorentino ranks among the conference leaders in most statistical categories as far more than a defensive specialist (9.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.1 bpg, .797 FT), but the Amherst offense has consistently run through Stedman. The 2010 NESCAC Player of the Year is making a strong case to earn the honor once again this season, as she leads Amherst with 13.9 points per game and seems to consistently give the Jeffs a boost when they need it most.
Keeping pace with Stedman as of late has been Marcia Voigt ’13, the reigning NESCAC Player of the Week. She is averaging 12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and a team-best 3.8 assists while shooting 60.9 percent in her past five games, as she and Stedman combined for 22 consecutive Amherst points during a pivotal stretch against Colby in the conference semifinals.
The leading candidate for this year’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year honor is Megan Robertson ’15, who averages 11.3 points and ranks among the conference leaders in field goal percentage (.555, 2nd), blocks (1.19, 5th) and offensive rebounds (3.78, 1st). Robertson has posted five double-doubles this season and is one of five Amherst players to lead the team in scoring in the past eight games.
Stedman, Fiorentino, Lem Atanga McCormick ’12, Shannon Finucane ’12, Jackie Renner ’12 and Livia Rizzo ’12 have posted a 120-6 record these past four years, and they need only one more win to become the winningest senior class in program history. The Class of 2011 also won 120 games, with the NCAA title giving last year’s seniors a 120-9 overall record.
2012 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship
First Round - Friday, Mar. 2
Babson (25-2) vs. Bridgewater State (19-7) --- 6 p.m.
Amherst (27-0) vs. St. Joseph's (13-13) --- 8 p.m.
Second Round - Saturday, Mar. 3
Friday's Winners --- 8 p.m.
* * * NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET * * *
Babson Team Website * Bridgewater State Team Website * St. Joseph's Team Website