By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
For the second consecutive season the women of Bowie State will extend the basketball season by making the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Lady Bulldogs, who were upset in the CIAA Tournament quarterfinals by Elizabeth City State, face Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) at Glenville State of West Virginia on March 15.
Despite their at-large bid to the tournament, Bowie State should be ready for this tournament having beaten one of the elite teams in the nation who plays in their conference. The Lady Bulldogs validated themselves to the nation when they beat Virginia Union in Richmond on January 23.
That was the moment that validated head coach Shadae Swan’s program. In her forth season they finished 22-5 and with that win over one of the nation’s best, it leaves no doubt they are ready for the challenge of a tough road trip in another win or go home game.
“The [CIAA] conference is a pretty tough league from top to bottom so it’s prepared us for the different styles of play from various teams around the country,” Swan told the AFRO. “Beating Virginia Union just let us know that we can compete when we play our game, we can beat anybody in the country.”
Despite the loss to Elizabeth City State Swan says her team remains confident heading into the national tournament. The Lady Bulldogs play with confidence and swag of most championship teams. However, there have been times during the regular season where that has gotten them in trouble. Swan acknowledged that her team was overconfident against Elizabeth City, which played into their hands leading to the premature end to this year’s CIAA Tournament.
“They are still upset,” Swan said. “We were a little overconfident and got off to a slow start. I think we learned that you’ve got to start quickly and play hard all 40 minutes. They are looking forward to another chance to extend the season.”
Most teams would have loved to get right back to the grind after the disappointment of losing in the conference. However, two conferences in the Atlantic Region played their tournaments during the week between the end of the CIAA and the start of the NCAA’s. While the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) and the Mountain East were finishing their conference schedules, it forced Bowie State to wait.
However, it worked to allow the Lady Bulldogs a chance to lick their emotional wounds and focus on the challenge of beating the team who ended their season last year. Bowie State won two games in the 2018 NCAA Tournament before IUP beat them to advance to the Division II Elite Eight which is the equivalent to the Final Four.
“It keeps us going from a confidence standpoint that we won two games in the NCAA Tournament and went to the sweet 16 last year – won two games last year and lost to IUP,” Swan said. “That raised the bar for us to know we are now able to compete not just for [CIAA] championships. We are good enough for Atlantic Region and NCAA Championships”.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee certainly did them no favor, as once again, both CIAA representatives (Virginia Union and Bowie) have to take extremely long bus rides to West Virginia to extend their season. The Lady Bulldogs will take a 4.5 hours bus ride to Glenville State. After a 10 a.m. practice on gameday they won’t play IUP until the final game of the first day of the regionals. Coach Swan’s greatest challenge will be keeping the team’s mind occupied, so they won’t play tight when their game tips off.