A late charge by the West Liberty University women’s basketball team has put the Lady Hilltoppers in contention for their second consecutive NCAA Division II Atlantic Region berth as the Black and Gold head to Charleston for this week’s Mountain East Conference Tournament.
Coach Lynn Ullom’s fast-rising Hilltoppers (20-8), who won eight of their last nine regular-season games to earn a share of the MEC crown, popped into the latest set of Atlantic Region rankings at No. 9 afternoon.
Livingstone, N.C. (25-2) is No. 1 with the next five spots held by Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) teams Indiana, Pa.; Bloomsburg, California, Pa.; Gannon and West Chester. Charleston is No. 7 with Shepherd at No 8. West Liberty is No. 9 with Edinboro rounding out the Top 10.
The rankings are used to determine which eight teams will qualify for this month’s Atlantic Region Tournament but there are other factors involved which make qualifying a little more complicated than merely finishing in the top eight.
The tournament champions from the PSAC and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) receive automatic bids, regardless of their rankings. That came into play this week when unranked Virginia State won the CIAA Tournament to grab that league’s automatic bid.
The PSAC and MEC Tournaments will conclude this weekend with the final regional voting to follow and the bracket to be announced late night. As a league in just its second season of existence, the MEC champion does not receive an automatic bid but all MEC teams – including the Hilltoppers – remain eligible for at-large consideration.
Further complicating the Atlantic Region picture was the CIAA’s nullification of 17 Livingstone wins for the use of an ineligible player. The player is appealing the decision and the timeline for a resolution is unclear. If the nullification stands, Livingstone would be ineligible for at-large consideration as a sub-.500 team and every other contender would, in effect, move up a notch.
West Liberty opens MEC Tournament play night in Charleston with a quarterfinal matchup against UVA-Wise.
NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Rankings
(Through games of Sunday, March 1)
Div. II In-Region
Team Record Record
1 Livingstone 25-2 25-2
2 Indiana (PA) 24-2 24-2
3 Bloomsburg 23-3 23-3
4 California (PA) 23-4 23-4
5 Gannon 21-5 21-6
6 West Chester 22-4 22-4
7 Charleston 21-6 21-6
8 Shepherd 20-8 20-8
9 WEST LIBERTY 20-7 20-8
10 Edinboro 20-7 20-7