The team, coaches, friends and family all gathered together in the BYU Broadcasting building on Monday to watch as the BYU women’s basketball team learned its destination in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Windy City, here come the Cougars.
BYU will be the No. 10 seed in the Des Moines region and play 7 seed DePaul in the first round on Saturday in Chicago. The game is set to begin at 4:30 p.m. MT and will be televised on ESPN2. It is the Cougars’ first appearance in the tournament since 2007.
“We’re excited. I don’t think it’s exactly where we expected,” senior Haley Steed said. “That 10 seed playing DePaul, we’re just really, really excited to be going to Chicago.”
Steed was on the last BYU team to make the NCAAs, when the Cougars lost to Louisville 80-54 in 2007. Unfortunately, she was out for the season with an ACL injury and didn’t get any playing time.
“We were expecting an 11 or 12 seed,” Steed said. “We kind of narrowed it down to the places we could go that weren’t in the Sunday brackets. But [we’re] pleasantly surprised with the 10 seed and really excited.”
BYU coach Jeff Judkins knows about DePaul and said he and the other coaches will be busy getting film so the team can prepare to be at its best.
“DePaul is a very good team, very well coached and I think it will be a great challenge for us,” Judkins said. “I also think we match up very well with them.”
DePaul and BYU may have some similarities but the way each team plays its game is a little bit different.
“DePaul’s not a real quick, athletic team,” Judkins said. “They shoot the ball well, they execute well. We’re not going to have to worry about getting it driven on us like we do with some teams. It will be more defense that is important.”
Some sports analysts projected the Cougars would be a No. 12 seed, but BYU did that projection two spots better.
“It shows that the committee looked at us and said we’ve had a good season, we’ve played a tough schedule and we really did pretty well,” Judkins said.
Freshman Lexi Eaton had a glow of anticipation when she heard the team was heading to Chicago. A true freshman, Eaton said this experience is exciting for her.
“We’re real excited, this was our goal from the beginning of the season,” Eaton said. “It feels great to actually experience all of this. We’re going to start preparing.”
For senior Kristen Riley, this is all a dream come true. Her sister, Lauren, is a former Cougar standout and went to the NCAA Tournament twice. Now Riley will be able to feel the same postseason rush her sister did.
“I’m excited I get to do it my own way,” Riley said. “I went to one of my sister’s games when she played and the energy I felt was just amazing and I’m so glad I get to participate in it this time myself.”
The players agree that staying focused and taking one game at a time is a winning strategy they plan to execute.
“I’m expecting my team to come out with the same focus we did against San Diego and Gonzaga [in the WCC tournament],” Riley said. “I think we upped our level of focus for games and I’m going to make sure that our team is ready and focused to play.”