Moments before the NCAA women’s selection show flashed on the screen at the Draught Horse on Sunday, those in attendance for the tournament pairings party murmured guesses of what seed Temple women’s basketball would land in this year’s bracket.
Many thought a five seed was suitable. Some said a three was a possiblity. Most thought four sounded like a nice, round number.
So after Temple’s name was announced and the cheers mellowed down, a small chorus of “boos” echoed through the upper seating area when a number six appeared next to Temple’s name.
After a season where the Owls compiled a record of 27-3, an Atlantic Ten regular season title, a conference tournament title and a nation high 24-game winning streak, the Owls made as good a case as any team in the country for a higher seed.
Instead, the Owls will carry their six seed to Storrs, Conn., where they will face 11-seeded Louisiana Tech in the first round on March 20.
“I thought our team played well enough all year to get a better seed,” coach Dawn Staley said. “Obviously somebody else thought otherwise. But, being Temple, being in the A-10, you have to keep fighting that fight. So hopefully we can put our conference in a better position by winning basketball games in this tournament.”
Louisiana Tech (20-9, 14-4) is coming off a loss to Rice University in the Western Athletic Conference title game. A national power in women’s basketball throughout the 1980s and 90s, the Techsters are one of two teams (Tennessee) to have advanced to all 24 NCAA women’s tournaments.
“I know that their program is a tradition program and they have been to a number of final fours,” senior point guard Cynthia Jordan said of her first round opponent. “They’re athletic and they are going to provide a lot of intensity and pressure, so we’re just going to go out and handle it.”
Despite drawing such a high seed, the Owls did land in the region that they had their eyes on all season. Should they beat Louisiana Tech and then go on to win their second round game, the Owls will journey back home.
The adage usually goes: lose and go home. But for the Owls, it will be: win and go home, as the Philadelphia regional semi-final, and regional final is being held at the Liacouras Center.
“We know who we’re playing, we’re focused, we’re committed to winning and we’re committed to bringing our team back here to play at the Liacouras Center,” said Staley. “We’ve seen the very best of college women’s basketball in LSU and Tennessee.
“If that didn’t scare us I don’t think anything will. I think what scares us most is not being able to play in the Liacouras Center. And that’s motivation enough.”
Also boding well for the Owls, are the familiar opponents in their region. A possible second round match-up with Rutgers is on the horizon. The Owls handled the Scarlet Knights, 71-60, on Dec. 13 at the Liacouras Center.
And should the Owls make it to the Philadelphia Regional final, they may have to go through top seed Tennessee. The Lady Volunteers accounted for one of three Temple losses this season, when they downed the Owls, 52-48, on Nov. 28 in Knoxville, Tenn.
“It’s hard to win 24 games, but we did it,” said senior forward Ari Moore. “We were definitely looking for something else, something that’s a little sweet note to go out on, but we didn’t get that. So we definitely have to look for a little better note to go out on, which is Indianapolis and the Final Four.”
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.