INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA released its first batch of regional rankings Wednesday afternoon as the third-ranked Carson-Newman Lady Eagles hold down the top spot in the region with four games remaining in the 2017-18 regular season.
The selection committee uses these rankings as a guideline to make up the NCAA Tournament field. The top eight teams in the region make the NCAA Tournament with three automatic bids going to the winners of the conference tournaments from the South Atlantic Conference, Conference Carolinas and the Peachbelt Conference.
For the No. 1 team in the region, that school gets to host the Southeast Region tournament over the second weekend of March with three wins needed to advance to the National Quarterfinals in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Four of the 10 schools in the top 10 are from the SAC including the top two as Wingate falls in second. According to the NCAA's strength of schedule, five of the 23 most difficult slates in the country have been played by programs in the SAC.
Carson-Newman is 6-1 against teams in the top 10 in the region rankings. It is the most wins against regionally-ranked teams out of any team in the region. The Lady Eagles overall strength of schedule for the season is 23rd in America.
Wingate is 4-1 amongst the top 10 in the Southeast and is the only team to beat Carson-Newman on the year. The Bulldogs are currently second in the league with losses to Lander, Catawba and Anderson. Coach Ann Hancock's team has five games remaining with a final game of the year at Holt Fieldhouse that could determine the regular season champion.
North Georgia is 3-2 and ranked third in the opening version of the poll. The Nighthawks have a two-game lead in the Peach Belt standings with road trips to Georgia College and Lander remaining on the schedule.
Lander has played the most games against teams in the Southeast Region top 10 with a 5-3 record to take over the fourth spot on the ledger with an 18-5 overall record. The Bearcats are playing without the services of guard Mylea McKenith who scored an average of 14 points per game in five games before suffering an injury.
The lone two representatives from Conference Carolinas are fifth and sixth as Barton edges out Limestone as the Bulldogs have won 15 of their last 16 including a 21-point win over the Saints on Jan. 31.
Anderson (S.C.) and Flagler make the cut at seventh and eighth respectively. Georgia College, who C-N beat by 42 on a neutral floor in November, and Tusculum will battle to make the top eight ranking ninth and 10th respectively.
The Lady Eagles get a chance to pad their resume Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against Tusculum inside of Holt Fieldhouse. Broadcast coverage can be found on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and cneagles.com/live starting at 5:45.
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