Dawn Staley wanted the women’s basketball team to control its postseason destiny. But the Owls left their NCAA Tournament prospects in the hands of the selection committee after losing in the Atlantic
Ten Conference Tournament semifinals last Sunday.
For the first time in Staley’s seven-year tenure – and only the second time in program history – the Owls received an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Temple will enter the Big Dance as a No. 8 seed in the Greensboro Region and play No. 9 seed Nebraska (22-9 overall, 10-6 Big 12) Sunday at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., in the opening round.”I’m just glad that we’re in,” Staley said. “I think it’s a good time for us at Temple. We usually win our tournament and get an automatic bid. But to get an at-large bid for our program, it means that we’re moving in the right direction. Although, we like to take it out of the committee’s hands and win our tournament so we won’t be on pins and needles like we were today.”
The Owls (24-7, 13-1 A-10) will make their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance Sunday when they play the Cornhuskers. The Owls have made five postseason trips in six seasons.
For the first time in three years, the Owls did not win the A-10 championship. Temple was defeated by Xavier, which earned a No. 6 seed in the Fresno region.
“I think we might be hungrier from losing in the conference,” senior Fatima Maddox said. From that, we’re real hungry to get back on the court.”
Last year, the sixth-seeded Owls were upset in the first round by No. 11 Hartford in Trenton, N.J. Temple has won just two NCAA Tournament games all time.
Despite winning four of the last five A-10 Championships and posting multiple 20-plus win seasons, the Owls have only one NCAA Tournament victory under Staley. Temple
has never reached the Sweet 16.
“I’m sick of losing in the first round,” senior Kamesha Hairston said. “I want to make it to the Sweet 16 before I leave. It’s going to be a tough obstacle, but I believe that we have the talent to do that.”
The Owls’ potential obstacle could be top-seeded Duke. The Blue Devils, who will play Holy Cross in the opening
round, could meet up with the Owls if both squads win their first round matchups.
However, the Owls don’t want to look past the Huskers.
“You have to beat who you play first,” junior Lady Comfort said. “I’m not worried about Duke at the moment. We have to play Nebraska. If we beat Nebraska then we’ll worry about,” the winner of the Duke/Holy Cross game.
Senior Fatima Maddox also said the team is focusing on the team in front of them.
“We’re the kind of team that takes it one game at a time and coach really stresses that. I’m sure we’ll be thoroughly ready for Nebraska when that comes,” Maddox said.
The Huskers are making their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance. Nebraska lost to Iowa State in the Big 12 Conference quarterfinals.
Nebraska is 3-1 while playing on a neutral
court this season, which includes a win at the RBC Center, the site of their opening round matchup against Temple.
It will be the first meeting between Temple and Nebraska.
“We’re excited about playing Nebraska,”
Staley said. “We actually just watched them lose to Iowa State the other day so we have an inkling of what they do and what they like to do and we’re up against a formidable opponent.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.