HELENA — Carroll College women’s basketball coach Rachelle Sayers didn’t know what team to prepare for during the upcoming NAIA National Tournament next week in Billings.
So she tried to scout as many teams as she could in recent days.
“I think when you get to this point, you try to out-smart yourself,” Sayers said.
The speculation finally subsided Wednesday afternoon when it was revealed the Saints were selected as the No. 2 seed in the Duer Bracket and would be facing the University of Pikesville in the opening round a week from Thursday.
It is Carroll’s highest seed in the national tournament since Sayers arrived in 2011.
“We are excited about that No. 2 seed,” Sayers said. “A No. 3 seed puts you in the middle of the bracket while the No. 2 seed puts you as far away from that No. 1 seed as you can get.”
The national tournament features 32 Division I teams where 14 were given automatic bids and the remaining 18 teams were given at-large berths.
The Saints (25-7) finished the regular season second behind Montana Western, but ran the table in the Frontier Conference Tournament that included a 54-50 win over Montana Western in the finals just two days ago.
“It would have been cool to bump up to that No. 1 seed after beating (Montana) Western in the Frontier Championship, but we thought it was going to slim chance that it was going to happen,” Sayers said.
Despite losing on its home court in the Frontier Conference Championship, Montana Western received a No. 1 seed.
“They have just been so good and so consistent all year,” Dean said. “They have been a top-four team all year and we expected that.”
Dean is one of the more experienced players when it comes to the national tournament, now playing her third in four seasons.
Last year, the Saints reached the second round as a No. 3 seed, and three years ago lost in the first round as a No. 6 seed.
Dean said this year is different as the Saints ride a 10-game winning streak dating back to the first week of February.
“It’s exciting because of the roll we are on,” she said. “We knew we would be up there with the best and we are just ready to get going.”
Carroll and Montana Western (25-3) were just two of five Frontier Conference teams to make the field of 32.
Rocky Mountain (20-12) was awarded a No. 5 seed after receiving an automatic bid as the host school with the tournament being played in Billings, while Lewis-Clark State (20-11) was revealed as a No. 6 seed and the University of Providence (18-13) squeaked in as a No. 8 seed.
“I think it is amazing,” Sayers said. “You see a team like Providence, who went through the Frontier Conference without a (winning) record and then they get in the national tournament. People are scratching their heads, but they did beat some of these No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.”
Montana Western starts the tournament by facing No. 8 Georgetown (Kentucky), while No. 5 Rocky Mountain faces No. 4 Shawnee State, No. 6 Lewis-Clark State faces No. 3 William Penn and No. 8 Providences faces No. 1 Campbellsville.