Hanover’s women’s basketball team celebrates (above) after its name appears during the NCAA Division III selection show Monday at the Horner Center. The husband and wife coaching team of Molly and John Jones share a hug (below) after the Panthers beat Transylvania in the HCAC championship on Sunday. Hanover will face Ohio Northern in the opening round in Holland, Mich., on Friday. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Hanover’s women’s basketball team celebrates (above) after its name appears during the NCAA Division III selection show Monday at the Horner Center. The husband and wife coaching team of Molly and John Jones share a hug (below) after the Panthers beat Transylvania in the HCAC championship on Sunday. Hanover will face Ohio Northern in the opening round in Holland, Mich., on Friday. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Hanover will square off against a familiar opponent when the women's basketball team tips off in the NCAA Division III Tournament Friday in Holland, Mich.

The Panthers, who blitzed Transylvania 83-66 on Sunday to earn the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference's automatic bid, will square off against No. 3 Ohio Northern in the first round game to be played on the campus of Hope College.

Hanover (21-7) and Ohio Northern (26-1) did not play this season but faced off in each of the previous three years as part of a tip-off tournament. The Panthers won all four of those meetings, including 76-62 last season in Ada, Ohio.

Despite being the underdog, that success against Ohio Northern - coupled with huge wins over Franklin and Transylvania over the weekend - give the Panthers a boost of confidence as they head into their second NCAA appearance in the past three years.

"I think (the players) were a little bit surprised when they saw Ohio Northern. They were like 'really?'" Hanover coach Molly Jones said. "They're definitely playing with a lot of confidence right now and (the fact that have played Ohio Northern) will only help it."

Unlike two years ago when the Hanover women won the HCAC to reach the big dance, this year they will be going alone. The Hanover men were denied an at-large bid after finishing the season with an 18-9 record that included a loss to Division I Butler.

Rose-Hulman, the Heartland Conference men's champion, will be joined by league member Transylvania in the NCAA tournament. Transylvania finished tied with Hanover in the league standings but lost to the Panthers three times this season, including in the HCAC Tournament semifinals. Still, the Pioneers were able to grab an at-large bid while the NCAA selection committee reject Hanover.

Hanover is the only HCAC women's team to reach the tournament with regular-season champion Transylvania left out despite a 21-6 record.

Ohio Northern lost to highly-touted Washington (Mo.) early in the season and has since ripped off 25-straight wins to earn its first NCAA appearance since 1989.

The Polar Bears are one of the best teams in the nation but virtually every member of Hanover's roster has multiple wins over Ohio Northern.

"(Ohio Northern) is obviously very good this year. They've won 25 in a row and I'm sure they are very confident going into the tournament," Jones said. "I haven't had a chance to see them play yet but looking at the teams they have beaten they are obviously a very good team."

Hanover and Ohio Northern will square off on Friday at a time yet to be determined. The second game will feature Hope, the tourney host, against Wheaton (Ill.).

Hope is making its 14th appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament. The Flying Dutch are 26-1 on the season and are ranked No. 2 in the nation in both the USA Today and d3hoops.com polls.

Hope has appeared in the NCAA Division III championship game three times. The Flying Dutch fell to Washington 65-59 in the 2010 finals, the squad edged St. John Fisher (N.Y.) 65-63 to win the 1990 title, and defeated Southern Maine 69-56 in 2006.

Wheaton is in the NCAA field for the eighth time and first since 2007. The Thunder enter the tourney with a 22-5 overall record.

The Hanover-Ohio Northern and Hope-Wheaton winners will meet on Saturday in the second round at Hope, Mich.