The NCAA Selection Committee snubbed the Temple women’s basketball team. In its first NCAA tournament appearance in over a decade, Temple will have to travel to Ames, Iowa, where they will face the Iowa State Cyclones (23-8) in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship.
The Owls are the No.14 seed and were placed in the Midwest region. Iowa State is seeded No.3. Vanderbilt is the top seed.
Of course the team is just excited to be going to the Big Dance and have said it really doesnt matter where they play. But of all places Iowa?
If anything Temple should have been placed in the Mideast region, where the first two rounds will be held at Penn State. The Nittany Lions will play their first round game against Chattanooga.
Although Chattanooga has a better RPI than Temple (61 to 73), it is located much closer to Iowa than it is to Penn State, and vice versa for Temple and its first round site.
Maybe the Selection Committee slipped up or forgot Temples address. Or maybe that’s just the reality of competing in the NCAAs.
“I guess you got to go where they [NCAA] put you,” senior guard Melissa Dunne said.
Whatever the matter, now hundreds if not thousands of Temple fans and boosters won’t be able to make the trek to Ames to see its underdog Owls attempt to pull off an upset.
Even some of the players parents will be forced to tune to ESPN 2, where the game will be broadcasted Saturday at 10:06 p.m.
But you won’t hear the Owls complaining about their location or opponent.
“It would have been great to have been closer to home,” junior guard Stacey Smalls said, “but I’m just glad and happy to be a part of history. Who would have thought.”
Now Temple women’s basketball history will include Iowa State and whatever result may come on Saturday night.
The Cyclones are one of seven Big 12 teams in the tournament. Iowa State finished the season ranked No.10 in the nation. Its last game was a loss to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
Iowa State has played host to tournament first and second round games the past five years. Its home court, James H. Hilton Coliseum, holds 14,092 people.
Basketball experts and coaches across the nation have said the James H. Hilton Coliseum is one of the craziest and noisiest places to play in and gives the Cyclones the best home court advantage in the country.
“It’ll be a good challenge for us and a good learning experience for the young kids,” said assistant coach Ed Baldwin of playing on the Cyclones home court. “We just look forward to the challenge.”
From scouting reports and film, all the way down to the final buzzer will be physically challenging for the Owls. But one of the other challenges comes in the form of 14,000 crazed Iowan fans who will be on hand to see their Cyclones match up against the under-matched Owls.
The crowd will play a factor in this game.
The Cyclones have made a habit of reaching the postseason, something relatively new to the Owls, but not for their coaching staff.
Temple coach Dawn Staley has been there as a player, and now will do so as a coach. Baldwin has been there as a coach. His last tournament appearance was in 1987 with North Carolina State.
“Its been a long time,” Baldwin said, “it’s a great feeling to have this opportunity to go. The team has worked real hard and I feel its deserving.
“We didn’t get as high a seed as we’d like. But when you get down to it now it’s just about playing the game.”
The Owls can play the game well and have done so all season. But now is the real test. This will be the biggest game of the Owls lives, and it may come only once.
Temple can go into Ames knowing it is the underdog and the slim chances they are given to pull an upset. Or they can live up to their regular season motto of “unfinished business” and march into the arena and show people they would still be invited to the tournament minus its automatic bid.
Win and march on; lose and go home.
Its that simple.
“The NCAAs are a funny thing,” Baldwin said. “You just have to come out and hope your kids are focused.”