At week 16 of the 2014-15 season, our Fightin' Texas Aggie Women's Basketballers were #12 in the AP and seemed to be gelling at the right time for a Gary Blair March Madness run. A big road win vs Kentucky was followed by domination of Florida at Reed. Then Jordan Jones went down in the first half vs Mizzou and the Ags dropped 3 of their last four, going 1-1 in the SEC tourney. Unlike the situation with MBB, there was never any question of whether the Ags would make the tourney. The question was how far we would fall.
Unlike the Dance on the Men's side, WBB doesn't draw consistently enough to set neutral sites for all of the rounds, and cost+attendance are factors in sending teams far from home. This year, the NCAA has no problem sending the Louisville men to play in Seattle, while their arena is being used by other teams. The women generally don't do that. Over the years, the NCAA has tried different hosting plans to avoid situations where higher seeds get upset by having to play on a lower seed's home court (or very nearby), or having a host site where the home team doesn't make the dance. From ~2003-2014 the WBB tourney played the first and second rounds at venues picked before the start of the season. Starting this season, the NCAA has gone back to the idea that the top 16 teams on the S-curve (i.e. all the 1-4 seeds) will host, if possible.
On Monday evening the Ags hosted a crowd of a couple of hundred for free food from Buppy's and the Women's Selection Show on ESPN.
Albany: No Louisville Loophole/Kentucky gets a 2 seed
As the Ags plummeted from a likely 3-4 seed to a likely 6-7 seed, the chances of hosting seemed to evaporate. But that "if possible" raised hopes of the "Louisville loophole" being relevant. Because the MBB tourney is being held in the Yum Arena in Louisville, the Lady Cards would not be able to host no matter how well they did. Charlie Creme had the Ags taking that hosting spot vs Louisville in most of his bracket predictions and the Athletic Department sent emails to season ticket holders to buy tickets based on the hope that the Louisville loophole would apply to A&M. But that hope was dashed with the announcement of the first region, Albany, when Louisville was placed as a 3 seed in Tampa, with AAC runner-up South Florida as the hosting 6 seed. If chalk holds, Louisville will have to face the other Courtney Williams instead of our CWill in the second round.
The other early surprise was that Kentucky, despite finishing 4th in the SEC, got the last 2 seed. The Cats benefited from having beaten Baylor and Louisville in the OOC, having upset S. Carolina late, and having swept SEC #3 Mississippi State. The Cats 9 losses were to Illinois, Duke, S. Carolina, Tennessee 3X, LSU, A&M, and Ole Miss.
Chalk would sent the Cats to face overall #1 UConn. Texas got the 5 seed in Albany and will play in Berkeley where 4 seed Cal hosts.
Oklahoma City: Ags not sent to Waco
After the Ags didn't get the Louisville loophole, there was some thought that A&M might get sent to Waco as the 7 seed in a pod with Baylor as a 2. Coach Blair was predicting Talahassee or Maryland, if the Terps were edged for a 1 seed by the Lady Vols. As the final group in the OKC bracket was announced with Baylor hosting Northwestern, Arkansas, and Northwestern State, Coach's prediction seemed reasonable.
Notre Dame is the top seed in Oklahoma City. Baylor the 2, Iowa the 3 and Stanford by winning the Pac12 rose to a 4 seed.
Greensboro: Ags to Tempe
The third group to be announced was Greensboro. Before the Selection Show, there was some debate about whether Notre Dame would end up in Greensboro, sending S. Carolina to either OKC or Spokane. With ND already known to be going to OKC, it was clear that S. Carolina would get the 1 seed in Greensboro. The S. Carolina side of the regional sets up a potential sweet 16 matchup vs N. Carolina for the Gamecocks.
Thinking the Ags would get a 7, I was a little bit surprised when A&M was announced as a 6 in Tempe vs Arkansas-Little Rock. But not too surprised after seeing Ky get a 2 seed. The Ags side of the region involves getting past UALR to play host Arizona State, which finished second in the Pac-12 regular season to Oregon State but was bounced from the Pac-12 tourney in the semis by Stanford in a game that had quite a wild finish. If the Ags can get out of Tempe to reach the S16, the winner of the FSU/Tallahassee pod would await. Florida State has had a really good year, finishing second in the ACC to Notre Dame with a 29-4 record. 3/4 losses were to the Irish. The other was to UNC in Chapel Hill. The Noles are for real. But they will have an interesting challenge if chalk holds in their second round game, which would be vs Florida Gulf Coast, the 30-2 Atlantic Sun champs. FGCU is only a couple of hours away from Tampa, and has a reputation as a mad bombing 3 point shooting team (9.7/game is good for 3rd in the country.. they've made 309 on 871 attempts this season).
On the other side of the Greensboro region, chalk would put S. Carolina against N. Carolina in the S16.
Not so fun fact: In 2008 the Ags made it to the Elite 8 where they lost to eventual champ Tennessee. The following year they were knocked out by Arizona State in the S16. In 2014 the Ags lost in the E8 to eventual champ UConn... I guess we owe the Sun Devils some payback.
Spokane: Possible Deja Vu for the Vols
By the time the broadcast reached the Spokane region, the crowd at the Cox-McFerrin center wasn't paying much attention. For completeness: After defecting from the ACC and laying waste to the B1G in their first year, Maryland got the last 1 seed in Spokane with Tennessee getting the 2. If chalk holds, Tennessee would play a new opponent, Boise, in the first round, and then rematches with Chattanooga and Oregon State before facing Maryland, the team that knocked them out last season in the S16. Spokane is also where Vic Schaeffer's
Texas A&M-Starkvegas Miss State team was slotted as a 5 seed. MSU goes to Durham.
- Arkansas Little Rock Trojans
- Saturday March 21, 2015 3PM CST
- Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe AZ
After the brackets were announced, Coach Blair and some of the players addressed the crowd. Not surprisingly, Coach Blair is an old friend of UALR coach Joe Foley and he talked about how Coach Foley regularly plays in Blair's charity golf tourney and how Foley had just called him on Monday morning to talk about brackets and possible opponents... without a clue that they'd be facing each other. Blair also talked about how Foley would have been a natural candidate for the HC position at Arkansas, but had been passed over several times without even getting an interview despite being national coach of the year twice and a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
He coaches kids up. He never gets the All-Americans... he's got 699 wins...I promise you one thing we will not see a zone from Joe Foley. They're a man-to-man team, they run motion offense, and they just do the little things well. And they execute, execute, execute.
- Gary Blair
28-4 UALR dealt LSU their seasoning opening loss and also knocked off Oklahoma in December despite being outrebounded 31-17. The Trojans forced the Sooners into 23 turnovers and shot 58.1% from the field. UALR is 5th in the country in scoring defense. They average 65.3 ppg while giving up 51.0. Probable starters
- #24 5-8 Sr G Taylor Gault leads the team in scoring at 15.5 ppg. She also leads the team in blocked shots.
- #10 5-4 Jr G Alexius Dawn is third in scoring at 10.7 ppg and is second in steals with 57. She leads the team in minutes/game at 34.
- #32 5-10 Sr G Ka'Nesheia Cobbins averages 6.2 ppg and seems to be the distributor: she has 165 assists against 91 turnovers. She leads the team in steals with 60.
- #40 6-1 So F Katlyn Pratt. scores 6.9 ppg and contributes 4.7 rebounds in an average of 24.1 min She has the highest FG% at .548.
- #20 5-11 Jr F Shanity James leads the team in rebounding with 7.1 boards/game, while scoring 11 ppg.
- This is the 10th straight year the Aggie women have made the NCAA field.
- The SEC got 7 teams: a 1 seed (USCe), two 2 seeds (UT and UK), a 5 (MSU), a 6 (TAMU), a 10 (Ark) and an 11 (LSU). It was interesting that Arkansas got the 10 and LSU the 11 when Arkansas was viewed as one of the last 4 in.
- Monday was Chelsea Jennings' 21st birthday. The team sang Happy Birthday at the Selection Show party. I hope they're more in sync on the court. Happy Birthday, Chelsea!