NAIA tourney field won't include Gold Nuggets this time
March 11, 2009
NEW ORLEANS — A streak ended Wednesday when
Xavier University of Louisiana was not among the 32 qualifiers announced
for the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship.
The Gold Nuggets were hoping for one of 14 at-large
bids after going 23-9, finishing third in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference
regular season and losing 59-56 at LSU-Shreveport in the GCAC Tournament
semifinals on Friday. But instead the Nuggets' school-record streak of
seven consecutive appearances at the NAIA's national tournament ended.
Entering the 2008-09 season, 13 of the Nuggets'
past 14 teams had qualified.
"We're not accustomed to staying home in March,"
10th-year Xavier coach Bo Browder said. "This leaves a bad taste in our
mouths. But we'll live with this and move on."
Xavier had more overall victories than six of
the NAIA's 14 at-large qualifiers. Xavier also had victories against
tournament qualifiers Loyola, Berry and Langston. None of the final
three at-large teams selected had more, and none of those three at-large
teams had as many victories as the Nuggets.
"We had two bad losses, which probably hurt us
the most," said Browder, referring to a 55-46 defeat at SUNO and a 49-48
defeat against Dillard at the University of New Orleans' Lakefront Arena.
Both SUNO and Dillard finished in the bottom four of the 10-team GCAC.
The NAIA tourney will start March 18 at Jackson,
Tenn. Three others with at least 23 victories — Avila (24-7), Southwestern
Assemblies of God (24-8) and Benedictine (23-10) — also failed to qualify.
GCAC regular-season and tournament champion Loyola
and tournament runner-up LSUS earned the league's two automatic bids to the
national tourney. Loyola has won 13 straight since a 49-42 loss at Xavier on
Jan. 29, and LSUS was 3-0 against the Nuggets this season with an average
margin of 3.7 points.
"We were one win (in the semifinals) from playing
our way in," Browder said. "If we had made a couple more shots and gotten
a couple more defensive stops, it would have been a done deal."
Xavier had zero seniors, two juniors, four sophomores
and seven freshmen on this season's team. The Nuggets were the preseason favorite
in the GCAC coaches poll and climbed as high as 16th in the national poll in
early December. Xavier reached 20 victories for a school-record-tying eighth
consecutive season and the 16th time in 17 seasons.
"The bottom line," Browder said, "is that we will
be a better team next season."