(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 in the Spokane Regional.
”It’s something we’re looking forward to: proving the (NCAA) committee wrong and showing what we have and showing our stripes,” 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 24.9 points – and only twice by less than 10.
The Tigers have four players averaging double figures in points, led by senior guard Blake Dietrick’s 14.9 per game.
”We’re looking to be that one team that beats them,” Green Bay guard Megan Lukan said.
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 Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia – might be in the stands Saturday at College Park, Maryland.
”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.”
One Canadian family is responsible for two-fifths 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 (5.0 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) and assists (2.5).
A victory over Green Bay, which has won 11 straight and 19 of 20, could have Princeton potentially playing Maryland, the No. 1 seed in the region, in the second round Monday.
The Tigers are trying to add to their unprecedented season with a victory in the NCAAs. That would only be the second for an Ivy League school, joining Harvard’s upset of No. 1 Stanford in 1998.
”Winning a game would be so big for this team, the university, the Ivy League,” coach Courtney Banghart said. ”Nothing can take away from the incredible season we’ve already had.”