The Nebraska women’s basketball team earned its 14th NCAA Tournament bid in school history on Monday evening. The Huskers claimed a No. 10 seed in the 64-team field announced during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Monday night.
Nebraska will face No. 7 seed Arizona State at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by ESPN2. Nebraska heads into the tournament with a 21-10 record after earning the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with an 11-5 conference mark.
The winner meets the victor between No. 2 Texas (26-6) and No. 15 Maine (23-9) on Monday.
The Huskers were essentially the final at-large team announced in the selection show.
“We waited until the second to last game that was announced,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said, “But, a lot of excitement at my house and just could not be any more excited for our team and in particular, the seniors on our roster.
“I feel like they’ve all contributed and made huge contributions to this team over their careers, but in particularly to this year and this turnaround. To watch that be rewarded for those three seniors is very heartwarming for me and may have made me a little misty when we were celebrating at my house.”
— Nebraska WBB (@HuskersWBB) March 13, 2018
Emily Wood is one of three seniors on the roster, and after enduring the worst season in program history last year, having her career end on this turnaround makes the tournament berth all the more special.
“For us as seniors, to be able to leave knowing that this program is back where we want it to be, playing in the NCAA tournament, that’s really special for us to get to leave it on this note.”
Wood, along with Jasmine Cincore, averaged only 3-5 minutes per game in 2014-15; the last season when Nebraska made the Big Dance. The two were freshmen at the time. After going through a sudden coaching change, a 7-22 season and watching teammates transfer out, Cincore is finally seeing their hard work pay off.
“When we first came in and we did make it freshman year, we were a part of it but our minutes weren’t as large,” Cincore said. “I don’t think we really had a great grasp of what it really meant to go dancing. I think we have a way better understanding now, and have some seasons underneath our belt and it just feels great to know that hard work is being shown and paying off in making it to the big dance.”
While making the NCAA tournament is the goal for every D1 program every year, Coach Williams probably didn’t expect it to come so soon after the turbulence of 2016-17.
“We knew that that’s what we were building towards, but to expect for that to happen right away this year, we probably wouldn’t have said ‘yeah, that’s a guaranteed goal,'” Williams said. “I will tell you that this team sets their sights high and they know how hard they worked in the off season. I think that as we were progressing through the non-conference, then it started to become a more realistic goal for this group fairly early on in the season.”
It became very realistic when Nebraska beat Michigan 61-54 in the Big Ten quarterfinals – a victory that Williams called the “icing on the cake” when looking at her team’s resume.
The Huskers went on to fall to No. 17 Maryland 66-53 in the semifinals on Mar. 3. Nearly ten days ago. Williams noted that the team has done a fine job of staying focused on improving during that time.
“The one thing I can say is I’m very proud of the way that our team has been able to keep their focus and find ways to continue to improve each day in practice. That’s tough to do sometimes when you’re just lingering around and waiting for your fate.”
Noting Arizona State
The Sun Devils (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12) finished sixth in their conference standings, and have reached the tournament for a school record fifth consecutive season. Former Husker All-American guard and first-round WBNA draft pick Lindsey Moore is currently a graduate assistant at Arizona State. Moore helped lead the Huskers to a pair of Sweet 16 appearances – as a freshman in 2010 and again as a senior in 2013.
“I’m pretty sure that 24 hours from now we’ll probably have a much better feel for Arizona State and their roster,” Williams said. “We know that they’re led by a Nebraska native in scoring (junior forward Kianna Ibis, Omaha Benson) so there’s some familiarity with some things there and one of our former greats is on staff there with Lindsey Moore being a part of that coaching staff.”
Ibis leads the Devils with 12.4 points per contest this season.
Arizona State is led by 21st-year head coach Charli Turner Thorne. The winningest coach in program history, Thorne has led ASU to the postseason in 17 of the last 18 years, including 13 NCAA Tournaments.
“A legendary coach and somebody that I have a lot of respect for and their program is one that we kind of from afar admire,” Williams said. “We’ll learn more about them as an opponent as we begin preparation.”
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