The University of Wisconsin - Green Bay topped NCAA Division I in the academic performance of their women's basketball players, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association announced Tuesday.
Under former head coach Matt Bollant, who left after the end of the season to take the reins at Illinois, the Phoenix maintained a Division-I-best 3.616 team grade-point average while playing their way to a 31-2 (17-1) record, the Horizon League regular-season and tournament titles, a trip to the Sweet Sixteen and a No. 10 final ranking in the Associated Press poll. It was the program's highest GPA on record and the second time in school history that the Phoenix topped Division I Academic Honor Roll.
The midwest seems to cultivate good scholarship as Missouri's Drury University took top academic honors in Division II for the third time; they have finished among the Top 25 on the D-II honor role a total of eight times, the most recent before Tuesday's announcement a No. 2 finish in 2006. The Lady Panthers earned a collective grade-point average of 3.709 in the 2011-12 academic year, the best in any Division, while proving successful on the court as well, finishing the season with a 20-8 record, a share of the Great Lakes Valley Conference West Division title, and a 10th-straight trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
"It's just a tribute to the work ethic and sense of purpose of these young ladies," said Panthers coach Steve Harold in a statement released by the school.
Returning to Wisconsin, Northland College's LumberJills were the cream of the Division III crop academically, earning a 3.706 team grade-point, finishing in the middle of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference with 12-13 record overall, 7-7 in conference play.
The Red Raiders of Northwestern (Iowa) got the job done in the classroom as well as on the court under head coach Chris Yaw, leading the way in the NAIA with a collective grade-point average of 3.657, as they played their way to a 28-7 (16-4) season and their third consecutive NAIA National Championship.
The Salt Lake Community Community College rounded out the list with the best team grade-point (3.379) among the nation's junior and community college women's basketball teams. It is the third appearance at the top of the WBCA's Academic Honor Roll for the Bruins and their 10th appearance among the academic Top 25. The Bruins finished last season with an 18-13 overall record, going 8-9 in the Scenic West Athletic Conference under head coach Betsy Specketer.
"I look forward to the release of the Academic Top 25 each summer,” said Beth Bass, CEO of the WBCA, which has published its annual Academic Top 25 Team Honor Rolls to recognize outstanding academic performance since 1996 . “Because our society places so much emphasis on winning games and championships, it is a refreshing change of pace when we recognize those teams that excel in the classroom.
“Like winning on the court, academic success on a team level does not happen by accident. It requires a group of student-athletes who realize the importance of education and earning their degrees, coaches who expect and encourage their players to attend class and study, and administrators who provide strong academic support programs for their athletes,” said Bass.
“The teams composing the Academic Top 25 each year are always the real winners in women’s college basketball.”
NCAA Division I Academic Top 25
As one more sign that academic prowess need not come at the price of success on the court, five teams honored in the 2011-12 Division I Academic Top 25 received NCAA Tournament bids. The programs honored include the following:
1 - Green Bay (3.616)*
2 - South Dakota State (3.610)*
3 - DePaul (3.604)*
4 - South Dakota (3.595)
5 - American (3.563)
6 - Youngstown State (3.550)
7 - Utah Valley (3.524)
8 - North Dakota (3.505)
9 - Florida Gulf Coast (3.474)*
10 - St. Francis (3.456)
11 - Montana State (3.435)
12 - Northern Colorado (3.421)
13 - Western Carolina (3.406)
14 (tie) - New Mexico (3.403)
14 (tie) - Northern Iowa (3.403)
16 - North Dakota State (3.402)
17 - Montana (3.399)
18 - Indiana-Purdue, Fort Wayne (3.398)
19 - Bradley (3.396)
20 - Denver (3.387)
21 - Bucknell (3.382)
22 - Yale (3.352)
23 - Sacred Heart (3.349)*
24 - Bowling Green (3.347)
25 - Eastern Washington (3.337)
Note: * indicates programs appearing in the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament.
NCAA Division II Academic Top 25
Eleven of the 26 teams making the Division II honor roll earned postseason berths in the NCAA Division II tournament, with No. 18 Ashland advancing all the way to the national championship game. The DII teams on the Academic Honor Roll include:
1 - Drury (3.709)*
2 - King (Tenn.) (3.692)
3 - Lake Erie (3.684)
4 - Fort Hays State (3.628)
5 - Rockhurst (3.586)
6 - Seton Hill (3.580)
7 - Lindenwood (3.567)
8 - Fort Lewis (3.562)*
9 - Holy Family (3.558)*
10 - Michigan Tech (3.547)
11 - Minnesota State Mankato(3.538)*
12 - Merrimack (3.532)
13 - Minnesota State Moorhead (3.527)
14 - Gannon (3.526)*
15 - Winona State (3.513)
16 - Maryville (Mo.) (3.507)*
17 - Wisconsin-Parkside (3.498)*
18 - Ashland (3.481)*
19 - Montana State Billings (3.476)
20 - Seattle Pacific (3.448)
21 (tie) - Franklin Pierce (3.446)*
21 (tie) - Wayne State (3.446)*
23 - Concordia-St. Paul (3.440)
24 - Cal State East Bay (3.427)
25 (tie) - St. Thomas Aquinas (3.415)
25 (tie) - Minnesota Duluth (3.415)*
Note: * indicates programs appearing the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament.
NCAA Division III Academic Top 25
Led by Northland College, making its fourth appearance on the Division III Academic Honor Roll, its first in the No. 1 spot, six of the DIII Academic Top 25 also earned bids to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Division III Academic Honor Roll includes:
1 - Northland (3.706)
2 - Case Western Reserve (3.641)
3 - Hope (3.620)
4 - Messiah (3.589)*
5 - Gustavus Adolphus (3.577)
6 - Ithaca (3.568)*
7 - St. Lawrence (3.549)
8 - Simpson (3.539)*
9 - Emerson (3.531)
10 - Centenary (N.J.) (3.522)
11 - Calvin (3.518)
12 - Virginia Wesleyan (3.513_
13 - Westminster (Mo.) (3.503)*
14 (tie) - Northwestern (Minn.) (3.487)
14 (tie) - Westminster (Pa.) (3.487)
16 - Luther (3.485)
17 - Carnegie Mellon (3.479)
18 - Grinnell (3.473)
19 - Saint Mary's (Ind.) (3.464)
20 - Central (Iowa) (3.463)
21 - Gallaudet (3.461)
22 - Elms (3.452)
23 - Wisconsin-Stevens Point (3.450)*
24 - Immaculata (3.440)
25 - King's (Pa.) (3.418)*
Note: * indicates programs appearing the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament.
NAIA Academic Top 25
Three-time NAIA Division II national champion Northwestern College (Iowa) made its ninth appearance in the NAIA Academic Top 25 and their first at the top of the honor roll. Of the 24 NAIA teams that join them, 17 -– eight in NAIA Division I and nine in NAIA Division II –- also earned berths in the NAIA national tournaments for their respective divisions. Here is the complete list:
1 - Northwestern (Iowa) (3.657)**
2 - Shorter (3.601)*
3 - Trevecca Nazarene (3.549)
4 - Cornerstone (3.544)
5 - Campbellsville (3.525)*
6 - Davenport (3.507)**
7 - Indiana Wesleyan (3.496)**
8 (tie) - Corban (3.489)**
8 (tie) - Saint Xavier (3.489)*
10 - Union (Ky.) (3.476)*
11 - Bethel College (Ind.) (3.449)**
12 - Great Falls (3.447)
13 - Mount Marty (3.432)
14 - Saint Ambrose (3.424)
15 - Ashford (3.417)
16 - William Woods (3.401)*
17 - Warner Pacific (3.393)
18 (tie) - Concordia (Neb.) (3.370)**
18 (tie) - Grand View** (3.370)**
20 - Point Park** (3.367)**
21 - Georgetown (Ky.) (3.363)*
22 - Saint Mary (Kan.)** (3.360)**
23 - Indiana-South Bend (3.352)
24 - Freed-Hardeman (3.320)*
25 - Lee (3.318)*
Note: * indicates programs appearing the 2012 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament; ** indicates programs appearing the 2012 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament.
Junior/Community College Academic Top 25
Salt Lake Community College has become a regular on the junior and community college Academic Top 25, its 10th appearance on the honor roll this season, and its third in the No. 1 spot. And the Bruins also finished the season with a 24-5 record, earning a bid to the NJCAA Tournament, where they reached the Region 18 finals.
However, the junior and community college academic honor roll features only 12 teams -- not the full complement of 25 -- due to a lack of eligible nominations. A team must possess a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 or better to be eligible to be nominated and selected to the WBCA Academic Honor Roll.
Of the 12 teams that did make the cut, three earned trips to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament and two more earned berths at its California postseason equivalent:
1 - Salt Lake (Utah) (3.379)
2 - Northwest (Wyo.) (3.363)
3 - Minnesota West (3.359)
4 - Mesa (Ariz.) (3.276)*
5 - Lon Morris (Texas) (3.233)
6 - Seward County (Kan.) (3.164)
7 - Sheridan College (Wyo.) (3.161)
8 - Kishwaukee (Ill.) (3.133)*
9 - Ventura (Calif.) (3.128)**
10 - Cypress (Calif.) (3.115)**
11 - Johnson County (Kan.) (3.079)*
12 - Ellsworth (Iowa) (3.061)
Note: * indicates programs appearing the 2012 NJCAA Division II National Women's Basketball Tournament; ** indicates programs appearing the 2012 California Community College Athletic Association Women's Basketball Tournament.
Source: Portions of this article were provided by a WBCA Press Release.