Four of the top five ranked in Division II are packed into one of the four NCAA Championship regionals — the one Northwest Missouri State and Emporia State occupy.
The Bearcats and Hornets are part of the 24-team field announced Sunday.
Northwest, 11-0, made it as an automatic qualifier, winning the MIAA championship. It’s the 10th straight year on the NCAA bracket for the three-time NCAA champion Bearcats, who are Super Regional Three’s top seed and will receive a first-round bye.
Emporia State, 10-1, is in the tournament for the second time in its history, also getting a berth in 2003. The Hornets are the fifth seed and travel to Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday. The winner of that game plays Nov. 30 at Northwest.
Northwest is the nation’s second-ranked team behind Minnesota State-Mankato, which is the second seed in the regional.
Third-seeded Henderson State is ranked fourth in the country, and Minnesota-Duluth is fifth.
In the Division II playoffs, teams aren’t shipped to different parts of the country. They play in their geographic region, which is how a regional can become as stacked as Super Regional Three.
The national championship game is Dec. 21 in Florence, Ala.NAIA playoffs loaded with area teams
The NAIA football playoffs will have plenty of local flavor.
Heart of America tri-champions Baker, Benedictine and Missouri Valley all open with home games Saturday in the 16-team event.
The Wildcats and Ravens are matched against Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference teams. Baker will play host to KCAC champion Sterling and Benedictine will entertain Tabor. Also from the KCAC, Ottawa will travel to Grand View (Iowa).
Missouri Valley is home to Northwestern (Iowa).
Quarterfinal pairings will be announced after the first round games are played.