Six days after the women’s basketball team won the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament and extended its overall win streak to 24 games, it finally learned its NCAA Tournament fate.
The NCAA Selection Committee placed the 15th-ranked Owls in the Philadelphia bracket as the No. 6 seed. The Owls are paired against No. 11 seed Louisiana Tech in the first round. They play the Techsters at noon Sunday in Storrs, Conn.
The Owls clinched their second consecutive conference championship by beating George Washington, 70-62, last week. The Owls won three of the last four A-10 titles.
The Techsters are an intimidating 11-seed, considering their history of postseason experience. Along with Tennessee, Louisiana Tech is the only school to earn an NCAA Tournament berth in all 24 years of the tournament’s existence. The Techsters have advanced to the Final Four seven times in that span, and won the National Championship in 1988.
“In order for us to build our tradition, we might have to tear down somebody else’s,” Staley said. “We want to be a mainstay in the tournament like Louisiana Tech has been.”
Junior Tasha Crain keys to the Techsters’ offense. The point guard averages 17.9 points per game. She shoots 47 percent and averages 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds. Still, senior forward Ari Moore said teammate Cynthia Jordan should have no problem defending Crain.
“As a team, we have matched up against some of the best point guards in the country this season,” Moore said. “Cynthia has dealt with Matee Ajavon of Rutgers, and Temeka Johnson of LSU. We think C.J. will be able to hold her own against anyone she goes up against.”
The Techsters also boast a daunting frontcourt. Center Margaret DeCiman and forward Tamika Kursh will battle Owls center Candice Dupree for post position. At 6-foot-7, DeCiman is five inches taller than Dupree. Kursh averaged 7.5 rebounds and 6.6 points this season.
“They have a lot of size,” Staley said. “They have a 6-7 player who could pose a problem for Candice. She’s going to have to move around a lot vertically.”
Staley said the site of the game could favor the Owls. The Gampel Pavilion is home to Connecticut, five-time women’s basketball National Champions. Staley described the arena with one word: crazy.
“It’s really crazy,” she said. “I’m glad we’re not playing UConn up there.
“To play on such a history-rich court that houses a team so uplifting for women’s college basketball is going to be good. We want to tap into some of that come Sunday.”
The Owls were not the only A-10 team to advance to the NCAA Tournament this season. Tournament runner-up George Washington (22-8) was chosen as the No. 9 seed and will face eighth-seeded Mississippi in the Tempe bracket.
Richmond also advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Spiders (23-7) advanced to the A-10 tournament semi-finals and were granted a No. 11 seed in the Kansas City bracket. They will play Florida State on Sunday.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.