California Baptist continued a dream season on Saturday by winning the Western Athletic Conference tournament, adding another victory to its perfect 24-0 record. Just three years after moving up from Division II, the Lancers are now the only unbeaten team in women’s college basketball.
However, that story won’t be continuing in the NCAA tournament.
Despite California Baptist’s win over Grand Canyon in the conference final, it will instead be Utah Valley who gets the WAC’s automatic bid to March Madness. California Baptist will instead head to the women’s NIT.
The reason: the Lancers got too good too soon.
California Baptist players celebrate after defeating Grand Canyon in an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Western Athletic Conference women’s tournament Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)
This is only California Baptist’s third season at the Division I level, and the NCAA requires a four-year transition period in which reclassifying teams are banned from its most prestigious tournament.
A similar situation would have played out with the men’s tournament as well had North Alabama, also in a Division I transition, beaten Liberty in the Atlantic Sun final. Because of North Alabama’s postseason ban, Liberty actually became the first team in the country to clinch a berth in the men’s tournament.
In the case of California Baptist, Utah Valley was predetermined to get the bid by virtue of its 10-4 record in conference play.
Why would the NCAA stop teams who just joined Division I from competing for championships? Because it already has enough Division I programs. There are more than 350 Division I basketball teams on the men’s and women’s side, and allowing teams instant access to March Madness would figure to increase a number that doesn’t need increasing. Of course, the seven-figure financial obstacles already do a decent job of holding teams off.
However valid the reason, the upshot is that California Baptist won’t get a chance to test itself against the nation’s best this month.
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