Albany (NY)-North Carolina Preview
A year ago, the NCAA tournament selection committee left the
North Carolina women’s basketball team sitting home in March.
The Tar Heels were determined not to let that happen again.
Motivated by last year, North Carolina (28-6) bounced back with
a solid regular season that earned it the No. 3 seed in the
Bridgeport Regional. The Heels will open against No. 14 seed Albany
(27-3) on Sunday.
That game will follow Delaware, the No. 6 seed, taking on No. 11
seed West Virginia in the first NCAA basketball tournament contest
played in the state of Delaware.
North Carolina earned its invitation by increasing its victory
total by eight over last season while climbing 75 places to No. 15
in the NCAA RPI rankings this year.
“I think we were motivated throughout the whole season because
we didn’t make the tournament” last year, senior guard and leading
scorer Tierra Ruffin-Pratt said. “We played hard from the first
game of the season until the last game of the season. We battled
through a lot of tough times – from last season and this season. We
did learn to work harder. And our leadership is a lot better this
season than it was last year.”
Still, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said the Tar Heels
were good enough to be in the tournament last year.
“When you look back on all the injuries we had and the fact that
we were still 20-11, I really felt like we should have made it,”
Hatchell said. “But I don’t make that decision. Anything in your
life is not what you feel like it should be, you have to try to use
in a positive way. So that’s what we did.
“We used it to motivate and set some goals. So far, we’ve had a
good year. We want to make it even better.”
This is the Heels’ 24th NCAA tournament appearance and the fifth
time they’ve been a No. 3 seed. In 1994, North Carolina won the
national title after being seeded third in the East Region.
The Heels haven’t played since March 10, when they lost to Duke
92-73 in the finals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. It
was their third loss to the Blue Devils this season.
“It was a good break for us,” senior Krista Gross said. “It’s a
long season. We had time to fully recover, get your muscles
America East champion Albany is making its second straight
appearance in the NCAAs. Last season, the Great Danes fell to Texas
A&M 69-47 in the program’s first trip to the tournament.
Albany brings a 19-game winning streak to Delaware, having run
the table in conference play by an average margin of 23.8 points.
Its last defeat was an overtime loss to Sam Houston State on Dec.
20, and it hasn’t fallen in regulation since a 67-35 loss at
Michigan State on Nov. 21.
The Great Danes use a balanced offense, with four players
averaging more than 10.0 points. They’re especially strong on
defense, ranking third nationally with 49.0 points allowed per
This will be the first meeting between the programs.