(MSUB Athletics release)
INDIANAPOLIS – Though her playing career has concluded, the long list of accolades for Montana State University Billings women’s basketball star Alisha Breen continues to grow as she was selected by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference as its nominee for the 2017-18 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
In July, Breen was selected as one of 581 women from NCAA member schools at all divisions as a finalist for the top award handed out by the NCAA. On Thursday, she was announced as the GNAC’s nominee, making her one of just 153 women in the country left in the running to receive the award.
Breen is coming off arguably the greatest women’s basketball season in MSUB and GNAC history, as she was named a first-team All-American and CoSIDA Academic All-American during 2017-18. The Choteau, Montana, native led the Yellowjackets to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the second time in school history, helping her team capture GNAC and NCAA D2 West Region tournament titles while constructing a record-breaking campaign.
A year after suffering a season-ending knee injury, Breen broke the MSUB and GNAC records for points in a season (791), which was the second-highest point total in the NCAA. The historic scoring mark also lifted her career total to 2,001, breaking both the school and conference records for scoring as well.
After being named the GNAC and West Region Player of the Year, Breen went on to lead the NCAA in minutes played (1,337), free throws made (226), and free-throw attempts (259), all of which are GNAC and MSUB single-season records. Breen was named the GNAC Player of the Week a record five times last year, was named the United States Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Week for Nov. 27-Dec. 3, and racked up 18 double-doubles which was fourth-most in the NCAA.
Breen led MSUB on its historic playoff run, as the ‘Jackets won three consecutive games against nationally-ranked teams to claim the west-region crown. During the stretch came one of the senior’s top accomplishments, as she connected a GNAC-record streak of 12 straight games with 20 or more points from Feb. 3-March 10. In total, Breen set 20 MSUB and GNAC single-season and career records during her final collegiate season.
In addition to her prowess on the court, Breen completed her degree in health and human performance with a 3.67 grade point average. She earned academic all-GNAC for the third straight year and CoSIDA academic all-district before going on to receive the nation’s top academic honor. She was also voted by the athletic directors of the GNAC as the Female co-Scholar Athlete of the Year.
After graduating from MSUB, Breen was named the assistant coach of the Yellowjacket women’s basketball team on June 28.
The NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee will narrow the field of remaining candidates down to 30 – 10 from each of the three NCAA divisions – and announce those selections in early September. After the group is reduced to nine total finalists – three from each division – the winner will be announced on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 at an awards dinner in Indianapolis.
This year’s total of 153 conference nominees is the highest in the history of the award, which is in its 28th season. Among the three NCAA divisions, Breen is within an exclusive group of just 34 who were selected from the Division II level. A total of 18 different NCAA sports are represented within this year’s remaining nominees.
The four pillars upon which NCAA Woman of the Year candidates are judged are academics, athletics, service, and leadership. Last year’s winner was Lizzy Crist of Washington University in St. Louis, who was a women’s soccer standout with a degree in biomedical engineering.
Among the 27 all-time award winners, 22 were from Division I schools and four were from Division III schools. Breen seeks to become just the second Division II winner, after Kristin Day of Clarion University of Pennsylvania (swimming and diving) claimed the award in 2015.