The internet was sprayed with celebratory landings in Seattle on Thursday night as players used social-networking sites like Twitter and team’s used their home Web sites to announce their arrival. Portland State had a rowdy send-off with the pep band and cheerleaders as the Vikings boarded the bus to Seattle. Gonzaga, Texas A&M;, and North Carolina hopped planes to the Northwest. The Tar Heels making their first-ever trip, playing Washington and Oregon state once in their history on neutral sites in Hawaii.
Friday was jammed with open practices and press conferences. Washington was even in the mix, holding their final practice before leaving for Corpus Christi, Texas to play in the second-round of the WBI tournament. The Huskies play Sunday.
But Friday was about the eve of the women’s bracket. And if it’s anything like the men’s opening round, we’re in for a real viewing treat. To help get you started here’s some links to NCAA tournament coverage on the teams playing in the Seattle sub-regional.
No. 15 PORTLAND STATE
PSU coach Sherri Murrell said she stepped off the bus and was reminded how much she hates this place — meaning Washington’s campus.
“I was a good Cougar,” Murrell said. “I don’t have good memories of this place.”
But the Vikings are soaking up the moment, making their first NCAA tourney appearance. PSU won the Big Sky championship to secure the automatic bid, but are among the slew of mid-majors filling the brackets.
No. 10 NORTH CAROLINA
If USC wants to complain about not getting in, North Carolina should start their argument of a team USC could top. The Women of Troy had a higher RPI rating (36 to UNC’s 38) and were on a hotter streak to finish the regular-season.
Even though I still believe USC needed to beat UCLA in the Pac-10 conference tournament to advance, they certainly were better than the Tar Heels, which have lost eight of their final 11 games.
This season marks the first time North Carolina wasn’t a lock for the tournament, making their 22nd appearance overall. The 10th seed is the lowest in program history.
No. 7 GONZAGA
Hec Ed is the Zags’ second home. For the second consecutive year, the team was crowded around each other playing word games in the locker room while waiting out the media availability period. Outside the doors, teammates/roommates Courtney Vandersloot and Vivian Frieson shared tales about living with each other off-campus for the first time.
Apparently the duo is competitive in practice. Frieson, a versatile wing, sometimes plays PG and goes head-to-head against Vandersloot in the sessions. But home life mellows that spirit.
“We go home and have to see each other and it’s like OK, that was practice,” Frieson siad. “It’s easier for us to get over our competitive issues.”
But it’s not always easy for Vandersloot to get some sleep. They have adjoining rooms with a vent that seeps sound.
“I hear all her Skype dates where she’s cupcake-ing with somebody,” Vandersloot teased, making Frieson blush for probably the first time in her life.
“She’s a mess,” Frieson retorted about Vandersloot, who leaves clothes droppings everywhere. “The house is her closet.”
The loose nature is similar to last season when the Zags upset No. 5 seed Xavier in the opening round. But this year Gonzaga is the higher seed against UNC — although both teams are proclaiming to be the underdog.
“There is that familiarity, but this is still definitely a different situation for us,” said senior post Heather Bowman, who turned 22 on Monday.
No. 2 TEXAS A&M;
The Aggies are making their third trip to the NCAA tournament and PG Sydney Colson released an “Oh, bless him,” when told President Obama picked her team to reach the Sacramento Regional Final.
Texas A&M;is stacked, but “finisher” Danielle Adams (pictured above) is the highlight, averaging a team-leading 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds off the bench. She’ll be tough for any team to handle.
But coach Gary Blair has three different players in wing Tanisha Smith, Sydney Carter, and Colson who can dish to other teammates, too. The trio totals more than 100 assists apiece this season. The coach said it’s the most fun he’s had in a season because of all the scoring options.
“When you inherit a bad program like I did, the first thing you start with is your defense,” said Blair, who was hired in 2003. “You go out and find players that are going to work well and play in a system. We had to develop a defensive mentality first. We have to play pressure defense no matter if we are playing half-court or man, (etc.). Our entire system is about pressure.”