Women's basketball earns No. 5 seed in NCAA Tournament

Lander earned its third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night (File photo by Laura Brown)
Lander earned its third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night (File photo by Laura Brown)

GREENWOOD  The Lander women's basketball team earned the No. 5 seed on Sunday night when the NCAA announced the 64-team bracket for the 2017 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship. (Tournament Bracket)

The Bearcats (24-7) will face fifth-seeded and No. 22-ranked Limestone (27-4) Friday night at 8:00 p.m., at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga. The Lander/Limestone winner will meet the winner of top-seeded Columbus (28-1) State and eighth-seeded Anderson (21-6).

Lander is making its 11th trip to the NCAA Tournament and third in three seasons.

"I think it's a great reflection of our program," head coach Kevin Pederson said of the berth. "I think it's become the standard since we've been at Lander that we judge ourselves based on the postseason. The bar that we've set is to make the NCAA Tournament and we're fortunate to say that we've done that eight of the 12 years we've been at Lander."

The winner of the eight-team Southeast Regional will advance to the Elite Eight, March 21-24, in Columbus, Ohio.

Lander fell to Columbus State on Sunday, 76-61, in the Peach Belt Conference tournament championship. The Bearcats knocked off Limestone earlier this season, 81-72, snapping the Saints 38-game home winning streak.

"We've earned a great opportunity," said Pederson. "We have a very young team and the experience they can gain from this is tremendous." 

In the other half of the Southeast Region bracket, second-seeded Wingate (25-5) will take on seventh-seeded King (25-6), while third-seeded Lincoln Memorial (26-4) faces sixth-seeded Clayton State (24-6).

"The great thing to me about the NCAA Tournament," Pederson said, "is that seeds are irrelevant. I've been a one-seed and a two-seed and won in the first round and lost in the second and I've been a four-seed and we've gone to the Elite Eight. We feel blessed to be in the tournament as a five-seed and we're looking forward to the opportunity."

The Bearcat have played six games this season against teams in the Southeast Regional field. 

"I really feel like our team should be prepared," said Pederson. "We played a very strong non-conference schedule and now it's time to go out there and see what we can do."