WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Women's NJCAA Tournament preview

Mar. 25—This week, the Women's NJCAA Basketball Tournament will begin in Casper, Wy. with 24 teams competing on the biggest stage in junior college basketball.

The tournament begins Tuesday and will conclude with the championship on April 1 with all the games taking place at the Ford Wyoming Center.

Odessa College is among those 24 schools as the Lady Wranglers are making their first appearance in the NJCAA tournament since 2019.

The Lady Wranglers (29-4) enter the tournament as the No. 7 seed and have a first-round bye.

They will play the winner of No. 10 seed Eastern Florida State (27-4) and No. 23 seed North Dakota SCS (27-6) in the second round at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday.

This year's tournament will include plenty of big name schools as the Lady Wranglers chase after their fourth national championship in school history.

Odessa College's last national championship came in 2007.

"If we show up and be ourselves, we have a good chance to make some noise," Odessa College head coach Franqua Bedell said. "But it all boils down to which team is going to be locked in and which team is going to be the toughest and which team is going to dial in and do what they need to do, night in and night out. That's what it boils down to."

Bedell is no stranger to having success at the national tournament, coaching Tallahassee Community College to a national title back in 2018.

Odessa College won a share of the Western Junior College Athletics title with New Mexico Junior College.

The Lady Wranglers then advanced to the Region V Tournament Championship game, losing to Collin County 66-61 on March 16 in Weatherford.

New Mexico Junior College ended up receiving a first-round bye as the Thunderbirds (26-6) enter the tournament as the No. 8 seed.

Defending national runner-up and junior college powerhouse Trinity Valley (25-6) enters the tournament as the No. 9 seed and will face No. 24 seed Monroe College (19-10) in the first round.

Trinity Valley has won eight national championships, the most of any NJCAA school.

That includes a three-peat which was set in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Odessa College defeated Trinity Valley earlier this season 88-79 back on Nov. 16 at the Midland WNIT at the Chaparral Center.

Region V champion Collin County (30-2) is a No. 4 seed and will face the winner of Pearl River-Eastern Arizona in the second round.

On the Lady Wranglers' side of the bracket, defending national champion Northwest Florida (27-3) is the No. 3 seed and also has a first-round bye.

Northwest Florida has won two of the last three national championships, defeating Trinity Valley in both finals.

Another dangerous team in this year's tournament is No. 5 seed Gulf Coast State.

Gulf Coast State won the 2019 national championship, defeating New Mexico Junior College 68-51.

All eyes might be on this year's undefeated No. 1 seed Hutchinson Community College (33-0).

However, Hutchinson Community College is still searching for its first national championship as the Blue Dragons have finished runner-up three times since 2012 (with two of those losses coming to Trinity Valley).

Bedell and his players are happy to be back in this year's tournament after a five-year hiatus and knows that it'll all come down to the little things.

"It'll come down to rebounding and making free throws and keeping people off the free throw line so that we can contest every shot," Bedell said. "If we do that, I think we'll be fine. But I like our seeding and I like our path. I wouldn't care if we were the 24th seed. I just want to be in Wyoming. It's all about being there. If you're not there, you don't have a chance. That's what it's about to us."