COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Kentucky’s men aren’t the only undefeated college basketball players in the NCAA Tournament this year: Princeton’s women are 30-0.
While Kentucky is seeded No. 1 overall among the men, and a heavy favorite to cut down the nets for what would be its ninth national championship, Princeton is a No. 8 seed in the women’s bracket and takes an 0-4 record in NCAA play into its opening game Saturday against No. 9 Wisconsin-Green Bay.
”It’s something we’re looking forward to: proving the (NCAA) committee wrong and showing what we have and showing our stripes,” Princeton senior forward Mariah Smith said. ”We were surprised, like others.”
Kevin Borseth, the coach of Green Bay (28-4), was asked Friday whether this is the first time he’s face a no-loss opponent in the NCAAs.
”How many teams have faced an unbeaten team in the tournament?” he replied with a laugh. ”I don’t think many have. Somebody’s got to play Kentucky, too.”
Ivy League champion Princeton hasn’t even been involved in many close games, winning by an average of 25 points – and only twice by less than 10.
”We’re looking to be that one team that beats them,” Green Bay guard Megan Lukan said.
In the other first-round game on Maryland’s home floor, the top-seeded Terrapins (30-2) seek their school-record 25th consecutive victory, facing 16th-seeded New Mexico State (22-7).
Western Athletic Conference champion New Mexico State is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 27 years.
”We were picked to finish fifth in our conference, so we’ve been playing with house money all year,” Aggies coach Mark Trakh said. ”Why not go out and play house money tomorrow and roll that wheel and see what happens?”
Some things to know about Saturday’s NCAA Tournament games in College Park:
FIRST FANS: President Barack Obama showed a bit of family favoritism in filling out his women’s NCAA bracket, picking Princeton to reach the Final Four. His wife, Michelle, is an alum, and their niece, Leslie Robinson, is a freshman forward for the Tigers. Robinson, whose father is the First Lady’s brother, wouldn’t say whether the First Family – including the Obamas’ daughters, Sasha and Malia – might be in the stands Saturday. ”They do live pretty close,” she said, smiling. ”But there are also many other things happening around the world today, so we’ll just have to see.”
SISTER, SISTER: One Canadian family is responsible for 40 percent of Green Bay’s starting lineup, sisters Megan and Kaili Lukan of Barrie, Ontario. They played one season of high school basketball together – and were rugby teammates back home, too. ”It’s neat when they say `Lukan to Lukan’ on the (PA system) after a pass,” said Megan, a 5-foot-7 senior guard who leads the team in rebounds (5.2 per game) and assists (4.7). ”There’s nothing like playing with your sister,” said Kaili, a 5-10 junior guard who is third in scoring (9.4 points) and assists (2.5).
`IN THE GRIND’: Maryland’s only losses this season came in consecutive games, at home against Washington State, then at Notre Dame on Dec. 3. Coach Brenda Frese said the 20-point loss to Notre Dame – the same team that beat the Terps in last year’s Final Four – created a feeling among her players of ”hunger and great responsibility.” Asked how it feels to go more than three months without losing Frese said: ”You’re in the grind. It’s all about the next day.”
HISTORY: Only one women’s 16th seed beat a No. 1 – Harvard over Stanford in 1998. New Mexico State, which started 0-5 but is 22-2 since, will try to duplicate that. ”We’ve quoted `Miracle on Ice’ and quoted `Hoosiers,’ the same things everybody else does,” said Trakh, the Aggies’ coach. ”Somebody asked me, `If you win the game, how big would it be?’ I said, `Well, 20 years from now, they’ll make a movie, `Miracle on Hardwood.”’
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg contributed to this report.
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