North Carolina looks to make run in NCAA tourney
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 the 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.
Delaware (30-3), the No. 6 seed, will take on No. 11 seed West
Virginia (17-13) in the opening game Sunday – 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, said senior guard Tierra
Ruffin-Pratt. ”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.
As a third seed last season, Delaware picked up the program’s
first NCAA tournament victory, 73-43, over host Arkansas-Little
Rock. The Hens then lost to Kansas, 70-64, in the second round.
Delaware’s players are excited to be making a little more
history by hosting an NCAA tournament game for the first time. The
three games at the 5,000-seat Bob Carpenter Center were declared a
sellout a few weeks ago.
”Hosting something like this is special,” Blue Hen coach Tina
Martin said. ”It doesn’t come around all the time. For the state
of Delaware, for the community of Newark, it’s just a wonderful
happening, if you will. We’re watching all the games on TV and it’s
so exciting. To have it here right in our own backyard, it’s a
treat for our fans.”
West Virginia hasn’t played since March 9 when it lost to
Oklahoma, 65-64, in the Big 12 quarterfinals after leading by 22 in
the second half. This is the Mountaineers’ ninth NCAA tournament
”After the Oklahoma game I told them there was a good chance we
won’t be in the NCAA, so I think they realize this is a second
chance,” coach Mike Carey said. ”The practices went well. I think
they’re focused and I think they’re ready.”