NCAAs 'a little bit like childbirth' for coaches
Princeton hasn't been to the NCAA tournament before, though both head coach Courtney Banghart and assistant Milena Flores made it as players.
Clearly, they can provide some perspective as far as what the Tigers can expect on Saturday.
And if the Tigers want more knowledge about what the tournament feels like, maybe they can call their mothers.
``This is going to sound silly. I feel like it's a little bit like childbirth, in that you don't really know what it's like until you get there,'' Banghart said Friday, before her team held its final practice to get ready for a first-round tilt against St. John's. ``Is No. 2 easier than No. 1? I don't know. I don't have any kids, but every experience is new.''
And that was just one of many memorable lines Banghart offered Friday.
-On her parents, who never miss Princeton's Ivy League games, scheduling a vacation in the Galapagos Islands for this weekend instead of being with the Tigers in Tallahassee: ``Not even my own family thought I had it in me'' to get the Tigers to the NCAA tournament this quickly, two years removed from a 7-23 season. (Which she said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)
-On being underdogs, despite a 26-2 record: ``We're realists. We're smart people. We realize what our chances are. This year, it's totally different. These kids know they have found a way to win 26 times and 25 of them are by double figures. They know how to win.''
Maybe the best line from Princeton on Friday, however, came from senior center Cheryl Stevens, talking about how the Tigers balance athletics with the university's intense academic demands. Stevens, for example, worked on her senior thesis before practice Friday.
``I think maybe we're getting a little too much credit,'' Stevens said, ``for being huge nerds.''
MY OWN NICKNAME: TCU senior guard TK LaFleur is a self-made woman. At least when it comes to nicknames.
``When I was in fourth grade, I was tired of people calling me by my first name so I made up my own nickname,'' she said of shortening up Trekessa. ``It's a lot easier for coaches to say and yell at times.''
TCU coach Jeff Mittie said he appreciated that.
``I can say Trekessa. I may say it today,'' he joked.
LaFleur rolled her eyes.
``Oh, that's just grand,'' she said.
STILL 'SPOON': Teresa Weatherspoon still plays basketball.
Just not against her Louisiana Tech players. That might be dangerous.
Weatherspoon, a star player who helped Louisiana Tech win the NCAA title in 1988, an Olympic gold medalist and one of the pioneers of the WNBA, says her competitive fire still burns as hot as ever.
``I still have that mentality, if I play, I want to destroy,'' said Weatherspoon, whose Lady Techsters will face Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday. ``I'm not here to destroy my kids. I'm here to build my kids.''
TEACHING MOMENT: The Georgetown women's team was disappointed watching their friends on the men's team get knocked out following a first-round upset to 13th-seeded Ohio.
That emotion quickly turned into a lesson for the fifth-seeded Georgetown women, who are making their first NCAA tournament appearance in 17 years when they take on 12th-seeded Marist in the first round of the Memphis Regional in Berkeley.
``We love our guys. We're Hoyas fans. We're fellow Hoyas. It hurt,'' guard Monica McNutt said. ``But if we had to find a positive out of that it's a reality check for us. Anything can happen in the NCAA tournament. As everybody knows it's our first time here. So we know we have to be extra sharp, be on all our Ps and Qs, dot all Is, cross all Ts and come out fully prepared and ready to play from the tipoff.''
Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy watched the game online with her husband and believed the men lost because of problems defensively and on the boards.
``It's funny because that's all I keep pushing at my girls,'' Williams-Flournoy said. ``Of course we did not want our men to lose but I can go right back to them and say if we don't rebound and we don't play defense we can't win.''
FULL CIRCLE: Sherri Murrell use to become enraged at the site of purple every time she visited Seattle.
The former Washington State coach still doesn't like purple very much, but she'll put up with seeing a lot of it on the Washington campus this weekend as her 15th-seeded Portland State Vikings make their first NCAA tournament appearance. The underdog Vikings play second-seeded Texas A&M on Saturday night.
``I hate this place. I was a Cougar and I don't have very many good memories here,'' Murrell said. ``But the good thing is I have a lot of good memories with the team I have now and walking off that bus and looking at all that purple I said 'it's all behind me.'''
Murrell lasted five seasons of constant struggle at Washington State going 27-114 before resigning after the 2007 season. She landed at Portland State and instantly turned the Vikings into a winner. Entering Saturday's game, the Vikings are 63-33 in Murrell's three seasons. In the three season before Murrell arrived at the school just a few blocks from where she went to high school, the Vikings were 27-57.
``This is wonderful, it's exciting,'' Murrell said. ``It means a lot to me to be honest with you and I'm savoring every minute of it.''
NICE DIGS: Hampton might be a heavy underdog and it's never easy going up against the Cameron Crazies, but the Pirates have discovered one perk to drawing a trip to Duke for the tournament: They have access to the glitzy locker room that otherwise belongs to coach Mike Krzyzewski's men's team.
In particular, one item caught everyone's eye.
``Jacuzzi!'' guard Jerika Jenkins said.
``Started to take my clothes off,'' coach David Six said, laughing.
``I might spend the night up here,'' forward Quanneisha Perry cracked.
``Show that to our athletic director,'' Jenkins quipped.
But while everybody shared a chuckle about it, the players also admitted that they're drawing motivation from those amenities, not to mention the numerous trophies and trimmed-down nets that fill up trophy cases throughout the Cameron Indoor Stadium complex.
``It makes me feel like winning, because they have all these accomplishments and trophies to show what they have done in the past years,'' Jenkins said. ``I believe now, in the MEAC, we can do the same thing. We can keep it going.''
AMERICAN IDOL?: Turning around Kentucky's women's basketball program isn't coach Matthew Mitchell's only talent.
Mitchell considers himself a good singer, often serenading the Wildcats in order to keep them loose.
The Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year's repetoire is heavy on Whitney Houston - seriously - though he's also been known to break out from 50 Cent from time to time.
``He thinks he's a good singer, he's OK,'' said junior forward Victoria Dunlap. ``He's all right. If he was on American Idol, I would vote for him until the end.''
Mitchell also makes sure his players get in on the act. In an effort to build school spirit, he made the Wildcats learn the words to the school fight song and requires the Wildcats to sing it along with the pep band at the end of each game.
Kentucky (25-7) is the fourth seed in the Midwest Region and plays 13th-seeded Liberty (27-5) at Freedom Hall on Saturday.
AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds in Tallahassee, Fla.; Teresa Walker in Knoxville, Tenn.; Tim Booth in Seattle; Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C.; Josh Dubow in Berkeley, Calif.; and Will Graves in Louisville, Ky. contributed.