Mar 24, 2024

Elite Eight field is set, activities start this weekend with games on Monday

Posted Mar 24, 2024 8:21 PM
Stock photo.
Stock photo.


St. Joseph Post

Eight different teams from eight different states arrive in St. Joseph this weekend for the 2024 NCAA Division II women's basketball Elite Eight at Civic Arena - the sixth time since 2003 that this event will be at this venue.

 Brett Esely, tournament director and director of the St. Joseph Sports Commission, says this coming week will be busy, but also a great opportunity to welcome in the eight best teams in women's basketball in the nation at the DII level.

"Every team in the country on the women's basketball side at the DII level in the NCAA had the goal of making it to St. Joseph," Esely said on KFEQ Radio. "Eight realized that goal. We look forward to a great week. We get to roll out the red carpet and we're excited about that."

The eight teams in the field are Minnesota State, Gannon, Tampa, Ferris State, Texas Woman's University, Cal State-San Marcos, Daemen University and Georgia Southwestern. The teams arrive Saturday with practice set to start on Sunday.

The event is put on by the St. Joseph Sports Commission, in conjunction with the NCAA and Missouri Western State University.

Ryan Menley, associate athletic director of external relations at Missouri Western, says this event has returned to St. Joseph several times through the years, because of the city's reputation when it comes to hosting events like this.

"We've done it well," Menley said of the Elite Eight. "Brett does a great job, but it's a Missouri Western event and a national event. Another national event in St. Joseph, Missouri."

Esely says hosting this Elite Eight at a time when women's basketball is more popular than ever makes it that much more appealing, citing breakout stars like Iowa's Caitlin Clark and LSU's Angel Reese - players who have broken NCAA records and have caused women's basketball to set new attendance and TV ratings records.

"You have people who are following women's basketball right now that probably never have previously," he said. "It's always been a great game, but people like greatness and legendary. As a biproduct of that, they expand their horizons to other games and opportunities. What you're going to see at Civic is the best of the best."

Play gets started on Monday with four quarterfinal games. The first session includes games at noon and 2:30 p.m. The noon game puts No. 3 Ferris State (25-5) against Tampa (31-6). The 2:30 contest is No. 2 Texas Woman's (32-4) versus Daemen (23-7).

The second session includes games at 6 and 8:30 p.m. The first of those two is No. 1 Gannon (35-2) against No. 8 Cal State-San Marcos (26-6). The nightcap on Monday is No. 5 seed and Central region champion Minnesota State (29-5) versus No. 4 Georgia Southwestern (29-3).

The semifinals are Wednesday night at 6 and 8:30 p.m. with the championship set for 7 p.m. on Friday, March 29.

The national title, which hasn't been in St. Joseph since 2011, was in Dallas last year due to the NCAA's 50-year celebration of Title IX.

The festivities officially get rolling on Saturday with the Hoop City Tip-off at East Hills Shopping Center.

This event, held from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., is open to kids of all ages with various basketball-related contests, skill challenges, prizes, a mini clinic and more. The Missouri Western men's basketball staff will be on hand.

The Jackie Stiles Youth Clinic returns this year as well. That'll be held Tuesday, March 26 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at the MWSU Fieldhouse. That clinic required sign up beforehand, and is full with 150 participants.

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.