The N.C. State women’s basketball team is back in the NCAA tournament as a No. 6 seed after a two-year absence and will play the 11th-seeded Auburn Tigers on Friday (noon, ESPN2) in Austin, Texas, in the Lexington Region.
Last year, when the Wolfpack wasn’t called as one of the 64 teams in the tournament, despite a 20-11 record, N.C. State coach Wes Moore said his players had chips on their shoulders. This year, after receiving a No. 6 seed, the feeling is the same, he said.
The top 16 teams in the NCAA tournament get to host their first-round games. The Wolfpack (22-8) will not be one of those teams.
“If you would have told me five teams from the ACC were going to be hosting, I would have felt pretty good about playing at home this weekend,” Moore said at Reynolds Coliseum during the team’s watch party. “Not real sure about how a team that finishes seventh in the league gets to host. But hey, must have friends in high places. I don’t know.”
Miami (23-8) finished seventh in the ACC standings and will be a No. 4 seed. While the Wolfpack finished tied for fourth, the Hurricanes beat N.C. State 67-64 in Raleigh earlier this season and knocked off Florida State in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
The Wolfpack finished the season 12-4 in the ACC, and its most notable wins came against No. 2 Notre Dame (30-3) on Dec. 29, then No. 6 Florida State (25-6) on Jan. 4.
No other team in the country can claim that.
The Wolfpack also beat No. 12 Duke on Jan. 15 and then No. 9 Louisville on Feb. 2. But they lost to the Cardinals in the ACC tournament quarterfinals on March 3.
Senior guard Ashley Williams✔ said she felt her team was short-changed too.
“Oh yeah,” she said. “We’ve shown that we can beat anybody, and we believe that. We just need to go out and play with the same intensity and mentality with every opponent.”
It is N.C. State’s second appearance in four seasons under Moore. The first time was in 2014. That year, the Wolfpack, a No. 5 seed, lost to BYU in the first round. BYU eventually lost in the round of 16to UConn, which went on to win the national championship.
More than 100 Wolfpack fans packed a waiting room to support the team. When the Wolfpack’s name was called, they stood up with their phones and cheered loudly.
“It was exciting, better than last year, no doubt,” Williams✔ said. “But I’m just ready to play. All this is fun and all, but we’re ready to get back out there and show what we can do.”
Auburn (17-14) finished eighth out of 14 teams in the SEC this season with a 7-9 conference record.
The Wolfpack’s leading scorers this season are 5-8 senior guards Dominique Wilson✔ (13.2 points per game) and Miah✔ Spencer (12.2 ppg). Chelsea Nelson, a 6-2 junior forward, adds 11.3 points per game.