NC State, Duke, UNC get bids to NCAA women’s basketball tournament

CorrespondentMarch 17, 2014 

N.C. State’s long wait in women’s basketball is over.

Unlike what the men’s team went through in its selection process Sunday night, there wasn’t a whole lot of drama.

The 16th-ranked Wolfpack (25-7) will be in the NCAA women’s tournament for the first time in four seasons, taking on No. 12 seed Brigham Young (26-6) as the No. 5 seed in the Lincoln Region at 6:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.

The winner will play either No. 4 seed Nebraska (25-6) or No. 13 seed Fresno State (22-10), which will play at 4 p.m. (ESPN2), in the second round Monday night. Defending NCAA champion Connecticut is the No. 1 seed in the region.

“No doubt we’re happy we’re not playing on somebody’s home court, but we’ve got to get by that first-round game first,” first-year Wolfpack coach Wes Moore, who was formerly coach at Chattanooga, said after the team watched the selection show Monday night at Jimmy V’s Osteria & Bar at the Sheraton Downtown Raleigh.

“The nice thing is if you can survive that first one you get to play on a neutral court. I’ve never taken a team in that wasn’t an underdog in the first round, but you have to go out and do it on the court. And BYU is traditionally a good program.”

As expected, all three Triangle ACC teams made the 64-team field, and the Wolfpack is the only one that will travel for its first- and possible second-round matchups.

Ninth-ranked Duke (27-6) got the No. 2 seed in the Lincoln Region and will face No. 15 seed Winthrop (24-8) at 11 a.m. (ESPN2) Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The winner will advance to Monday’s game against the survivor of the other Durham first-round game between No. 7 seed DePaul (27-6) and No. 10 seed Oklahoma (18-14) at 1:30 on ESPN2.

“I know (Winthrop has) a tremendously balanced scoring attack with four double-figure scorers, which is always interesting to see that balance,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “From there, I’ll have to look at film to see how we’ll attack things (Tuesday) at practice. We’re really excited to have an opponent.”

No. 12-ranked North Carolina (24-9) will open play Sunday, getting the No. 4 seed in the Stanford Region and taking on No. 13 seed Tennesssee-Martin (24-7) at 3 p.m. (ESPN) at Carmichael Arena. The winner will advance to Tuesday’s game against the winner of No. 5 seed Michigan State (22-9) and No. 12 seed Hampton (28-4).

South Carolina is the top seed in the Stanford Region.

Andrew Calder, the top assistant to UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell who is completing a round of treatment for leukemia, is expected to guide the Tar Heels in the opening-round game.

“We’re obviously thrilled to be back in the NCAA tournament,” Calder said. “We look forward to hosting UT-Martin, Michigan State and Hampton. We’re excited to have the opportunity to play in front of our fans.”

As expected, eight ACC teams received berths, including conference champion Notre Dame, lame-duck member Maryland, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Florida State.

Wolfpack senior Kody Burke got a special surprise, since she is from Northridge, Calif., and once attended a camp at the Bruins’ storied gym.

“I couldn’t believe it!” Burke said. “I wasn’t even paying attention to where we were going, and somebody said ‘We’re going to L.A.’ and I was like, ‘Stop playing.’ I was in shock. I’m inviting everybody I know back home.”

N.C. State is in the NCAA tournament for the 22nd time, with its peak an appearance in the 1998 Final Four.

“We were glad it came up (on the screen) so quick,” said Wolfpack center Markeisha Gatling, who said she is 100 percent back from her bruised knee from the ACC tournament. “We thought we’d be (at Purdue). As soon as Kody saw, she was on the phone calling home, so we’ll have a little crowd in L.A.”

Duke is in for the 21st time, with four Final Four appearances to its credit. The Blue Devils have played and lost an Elite Eight game each of the past four seasons.

“Playing at home is great for us, especially with the home crowd,” Duke guard Tricia Liston said. “Also for us seniors, being able to play in Cameron again, I think that’s something that’s going to be really special for us and it will give us good momentum.”

UNC, which won the 1994 NCAA title, has been to the Final Four three times.

“I’m excited for my second trip to the NCAA tournament,” UNC sophomore forward Xylina McDaniel said. “Last year we fell short too early. I think everyone is ready and it’s going to be a fun journey.”

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