The BYU women’s basketball team clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and received a No. 7 seed during the women’s selection show Monday following an impressive conference tournament performance and championship last week.
“It’s surreal,” BYU guard Paisley Johnson said. “We didn’t play in the postseason last year so it’s great to keep practicing and playing games at this point in the year. I feel honored for the program to be a seven seed and have that respect from the NCAA to put us there. We still have some noise to make.”
The Cougars are scheduled to play the SEC’s Auburn Tigers, the No. 10 seed, this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time in Stanford, California.
“We need to be ready to go. Auburn is a very good team and if (the SEC) isn’t the best conference then it’s right up there,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “They’re very athletic and pressure a lot so that’ll be a great challenge for us.”
Just hours before the scheduled selection show, an unfortunate and ill-timed error resulted in ESPN leaking the women’s bracket and matchups earlier than anticipated. Despite the various reports on social media of their destination, the Cougars still gathered together to watch the selection program as planned.
“It hurt a little bit, it took some of the luster out of the situation,” Judkins said about the leak. “I wanted my team to be together more than anything to celebrate the great season they’ve had, so I’m glad we still got to do that.”
Even with a lack of suspense, team members still acknowledged their excitement about the selection.
“Once I heard there was a leak I tried to avoid social media just because I wanted it to be exciting, so that was kind of a bummer, but it was still fun to watch,” guard Caitlyn Alldredge said. “It’s more fun to watch when you know your name will be up there, just because if you’re not sure and you never hear your name called it can be really disappointing.”
With a week of preparation ahead for Auburn, Judkins said he hopes his team can maintain their underdog mentality and remain fearless for the high stakes ahead.
“It’s a great honor to be one of the 64 teams in the field but now everybody is equal and we just need to take it one game at a time,” Judkins said. “I really hope (Auburn) is looking past us now. Our guys don’t have any fear and they’re not going to be afraid of playing someone who is supposedly better than they are.”
Auburn came up one basket short to nationally ranked No. 15 Texas A&M in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament following a 22-9 regular season. Auburn struggled against ranked teams this season, posting an overall record of 0-6 against teams currently in the top 25 while BYU posted a 3-0 record in top 25 matchups.
The winner of the BYU-Auburn matchup will move on to the round of 32 and will play against the winner of No. 2 seed Stanford vs. No. 15 seed UC Davis on March 25.