Bowling's digital daily newspaper delivering news, analysis and opinion.

April Madness: John Martin updates his projected bracket for NCAA women’s bowling

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Monday, March 25, 2024 12:45 pm
April Madness: John Martin updates his projected bracket for NCAA women’s bowling
Vanderbilt after winning the 2023 NCAA Women’s Bowling Championship at South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas. Photo by NCAA.

Note: This story originally posted Feb. 10, 2024 and has been updated multiple times.

There will be 18 teams in this year's NCAA tournament field for women's bowling. A 10th automatic bid was added with Conference Carolinas. And with 18 teams there will be two play-in games. I added John Martin's update to the bottom of his story and replaced the PDF with his updated bracket.

This site details the tournament:
The 2024 National Collegiate Women's Bowling Championship will feature a 18-team double-elimination tournament. Ten conferences have been granted automatic qualification, and eight additional teams will be selected at-large (a total of 18 teams selected) and placed into the bracket. The Selections for the 2024 National Collegiate Women's Bowling Championship will be announced on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, via web stream on NCAA.com.
 The championship playoff format involves four predetermined regional sites (Regions 1, 2, 3 and 4). Four teams will be assigned to two sites. Two sites will host five teams. Regional competition will be conducted April 5-6, 2024 (four team sites) and April 4-6, 2024 (five team sites). The four regional winners will advance to the National Collegiate Women's Bowling Championship, April 12-13.
Each match of the double-elimination tournament, will consist of teams competing in a best-of-three match format, bowled in the following order:
Five-person team match
Baker total pin fall
Best-of-seven Baker match play

With a full-time job as a newspaper reporter/editor, another effectively full-time job operating 11thFrame.com, occasional has-been bowling, and trying to have a sliver of a personal life, never-ending triage is my existence.

One choice made in my triage is to cover just the basics of college bowling: can’t-be-ignored news and the season-ending tournaments for the major entities.

Of course, if I covered nothing else but college bowling, I think I would struggle to cover all that is involved in USBC Collegiate, NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, and whatever else exists in college bowling.

Fortunately, I know a lot of college coaches, officials, players and parents who I can turn to when I have questions and need information.

One guy I’ve been pestering for years is John Martin, whose daughter Jillian is the youngest ever to win a PWBA Tour title, now bowls for Nebraska, and who I believe will be the best woman bowler in the world, assuming she devotes herself to that after college.

The occasional back-and-forth I have with John led to this story, which offers something I’d do if I had the time, and should be popular: a projected NCAA women's bowling bracket. (For the record, he has Jillian's Nebraska team as a No. 5 seed in his first bracket.)

All you have to do is look to the huge volume of airtime devoted to experts offering their predicted brackets for the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments.

As that is called March Madness, we can call NCAA women’s bowling April Madness, since the tournament takes place in April and will conclude this year on April 12-13 at Thunderbowl Lanes in the Detroit suburb of Allen Park, Michigan.

The tournament information is at the NCAA college bowling site, and the National Tenpin Coaches Association site that is dedicated to NCAA bowling also has tons of information.

Based on the last paragraph, John may be offering updates to this article.



Tournament Time (Feb. 10, 2024) — With 9 automatic bids and 8 at-large selections, the NCAA women’s bowling tournament bracket projections are coming into shape. The following projections are based off the 2/1/24 RPI standings and take into account geography.

9 conference tournament winners from the GLVC, Conference USA, SWAC, CIAA, AMCC, MEAC, NEC, ECC, and CCIW will earn automatic bids. Of those the SWAC, CIAA, AMCC, ECC, and CCIW are projected to only send one team to the NCAA regionals. For those conference schools, it’s win and you’re in, lose and you’re out!

8 at-large bids will fill out the field.

Conference USA is projected to send 6 teams to the postseason with Tulane, Sam Houston, and Valparaiso all needing to win the conference tournament to get in. The newest member of the newest conference, Jacksonville State is projected to receive the number 1 overall seed as Shannon and Bryan O’Keefe have come from McKendree in the offseason and continued their regular season dominance of collegiate bowling. Even with a loss in the Conference USA postseason tournament, Jacksonville State should maintain the overall #1 seed. This conference tournament tends to be the least important as most of the top teams have already punched their ticket as an at-large bid and the bottom teams face a must win against significantly superior competition.

In the MEAC, North Carolina A&T has been in the top 5 of the RPI all year long and have won the last 3 conference championships. They will make the NCAA regionals regardless of their performance in the post season tournament Every other team must win the tournament to get into the field of 17. In nine out of the last 10 seasons, either Maryland Eastern Shore or North Carolina A&T have won this conference tournament.

In the Great Lakes Valley Conference, Maryville will probably need to win their conference tournament, or suffer some grueling days before the selection show. Newman, Central Missouri, and McKendree will all need to win the GLVC tournament to get into the post-season.

The Northeast Conference has been one of the most competitive conference tournaments over the last few years. Duquesne currently sits atop the RPI at #9 in the RPI, but similar to Maryville, losing the conference tournament puts them on the bubble and could knock them completely out of the field of 17 depending on other results. FDU (20), Niagara (25), Merrimack (19), Sacred Heart (21), and St. Francis (30) all sit very close in the RPI. With great parity and so much on the line, this conference tournament will provide the most drama.

As usual, Conference USA is projected to receive most of the at-large bids (5), with perennial power Nebraska, taking up another at-large bid. Nebraska, like Notre Dame in college football does not have a conference affiliation and cannot receive an automatic bid. 

As new RPI rankings come out, we will update the brackets and projections. The first two out and last four in need quality wins against quality opponents to improve their standing. Wins against bottom RPI teams will not help. Wins against top RPI teams are very important. It goes without saying that when facing each other, head to head wins could be the difference between being in or out.

Update Feb. 12, 2024:

The added conference is not ranked high enough to have an affect on the other at-large bids — It’s another win and you’re in conference bid.

The top three seeds all remained the same with some movement between the 4-7 seeds. You can expect to see this small movement throughout the next few weeks leading up to the selection show. There could be some significant movement between the Conference USA teams when they meet in the Smyrna Tournament and the Conference Championships should one or two teams have dominating performances at the end of the regular season.

The big move of the week was Sam Houston moving off the bubble and into the field as one of the last two in with their performance over the weekend, winning the Flyer Classic. But the GLVC, NEC and MEAC conference tournaments all have the possibility of knocking teams off the bubble and out of the field should an upset occur.

Getting off the bubble and into the tournament will require beating good teams so look for the bubble teams that have tournaments against better competition to help them move up the ladder. Simply grinding out 9-4, 8-5, or 7-6 weekend against average competition isn’t going to move the needle for these teams.

When the rankings come out, brackets will be updated.

Update March 10, 2024:

With only a couple more tournaments left, things are starting to take shape in the bracket. The new bracket takes into account geography to minimize travel and where teams may have played last year. Thus, we have La Tech and Sam Houston in the Arlington regional and Duquesne and Maryville in the Pittsburgh regional.

Things to watch for in conference tournaments:

Conference USA — Look for a bubble battle between the mid level teams in the conference. Sam Houston and SFA are two of the last 3 in while Tulane and Valparaiso are two of the last three out. Between the season ending conference tournament and Vanderbilt’s tournament next weekend, the bubble could be decided here.

GLVC — With a late season surge up the rankings, McKendree is looking to make the show and will need to win the conference tournament to do so. The same is true for Newman. Wins by either of these teams will push the bubble down one notch as Maryville will probably be an at large bid, regardless.

MEAC — North Carolina A&T is in, but if UMES could pull off the upset, that would push the bubble down one. UMES must win or they are out.

NEC — Duquesne is in the field, however historically, the NEC is the most competitive conference tournament and has a good chance of pushing the bubble down should Duquesne not win.

In the SWAC, CIAA, AMCC, ECC, CCIW, and GMAC/CC tournaments, the winner will be in and there will be no at large bids.

An updated bracket is attached. 

Update March 25, 2024:

What an eventful weekend! Significant upsets in conference tournaments shook things up just before the NCAA selection show on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. UMES secured their ticket in the MEAC, while Merrimack clinched theirs in the NEC. I still have both NC A&T and Duquesne making it to the tournament, but the final spot will be fiercely contested among Sam Houston, SFA, and the Mount. Maryville fought off Newman in the GLVC to save themselves from the bubble, otherwise it would have been more chaos at the bottom of the at-large bids. Another brutal year for Newman as they finished just out of the tournament last year and look to end up on the wrong side of the bubble again. Three conference tournaments were broadcast by ESPN+: Conference USA, the MEAC, and the SWAC.

It's worth noting that out of the 10 teams with automatic conference bids, only 2 are ranked in the top 15. If Newman had beaten Maryville, Jacksonville State would have been the only top 15 ranked team with an automatic bid. I’m uncertain whether the system works well when the 8 at-large teams rank higher than all but one automatic bid. However, this is the system the NCAA operates, so we have to contend with it and it’s better to have 18 teams in the show rather than the 8 we used to have.

Here are your qualifiers as I see it:

Automatic Bids - Conference Champions
 1. Jacksonville State (Conference USA)
 9. Maryville (GLVC)
17. Merrimack (NEC)
26. Mercyhurst (ECC)
27. William Smith (AMCC)
31. Belmont Abbey (GMAC - Coastal Carolina)
34. Marian (CCIW)
45. Alabama State (SWAC)
63. Fayetteville State (CIAA)

At Large Bids
2. Youngstown State (Conference USA)
3. Arkansas State (Conference USA)
4. Vanderbilt (Conference USA)
5. Nebraska (Independent)
6. North Carolina A&T (MEAC)
7. Louisiana Tech (Conference USA)
8. Duquesne (NEC)
10. Sam Houston (Conference USA)

First Four Out
The Mount

I project Jacksonville State as the #1 overall seed, followed by #2 Youngstown State, #3 Arkansas State, and #4 Vanderbilt. 

An updated bracket is attached.