NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Starts Saturday

March 20, 2008

by Jeff Smith

No. 6 OHIO STATE (22-8, 13-5 Big Ten) vs. No. 11 Florida State (18-13, 7-7 ACC)
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
Tip: 10:30 p.m. EDT

Ohio State enters the NCAA Tournament with a renewed sense of commitment as well as a somewhat new addition to the team. Junior forward Star Allen has been ruled eligible for the postseason after missing the majority of the regular season. The Preseason All-Big Ten selection started 10-of-12 games this season, averaging 8.6 points and 7.1 rebounds. Last year she was named second-team All-Conference after nearly shooting 70 percent from the floor in conference games - a Big Ten record. After being upset by No. 13 Marist in the first round of last year's tournament and by Illinois recently in the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State is looking to play its best basketball of the season. Led this year by Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Year Jantel Lavender (17.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg, .519 FG%) and senior perimeter threat Marscilla Packer (15.2 ppg, .412 3FG%), the Buckeyes paced the conference with a scoring average of 71.7 points, which helped them post their sixth straight 20-win season. Sophomore Shavelle Little also led the league in steals with 2.79 per game.

Florida State earned its way into the "Big Dance" by playing a schedule that was 37th-toughest in the nation. At 18-13, the Seminoles recorded eight of those 13 losses to ranked teams and seven of those eight came on the road. Similar to Ohio State's situation, Florida State was forced to play the entire spring without the services of Britany Miller, who was the team's top returning scorer and rebounder. FSU countered with a balanced attack featuring five players averaging 8.5 points per game or more and four players pulling in at least 4.0 rebounds per outing. Tanae Davis-Cain (14.8 ppg) led three players in double-figure scoring this season, followed by perimeter threat Mara Freshour (12.5) and Jacinta Monroe (10.2). Freshour set an FSU single-season record with 59 three-pointers, while Monroe ranks second on the school's career and single-season blocks list.



THE SERIES - This is the first meeting between Ohio State and Florida State.

OHIO STATE NCAA HISTORY - The Buckeyes are making their 17th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, including their sixth-straight. The 1993 Final Four participant is 18-16 overall in tournament play and has advanced to the Sweet 16 on seven occasions (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1993, 2005) and made three trips to the Elite Eight (1985, 1987, 1993).

THEY SAID IT - "It's how well prepared you are. I think this team is healthier and readier than we were last year." - Ohio State head coach Jim Foster

DID YOU KNOW... - While never meeting on the court, Florida State and Ohio State crossed paths in last year's tournament? Both teams took part in upsets at Stanford last season as No. 13 seed Marist, which later advanced to the Elite Eight, knocked off the No. 4 Buckeyes in the first round and the No. 10 Seminoles eliminated No. 2 Stanford in the second.

A BUCKEYE WIN WILL - Put Ohio State into the second round to face the winner of No. 3 seed Oklahoma State and No. 14 East Tennessee State on Monday.

No. 9 IOWA (21-10, 13-5 Big Ten) vs. No. 8 Georgia (22-9, 8-7 SEC)
Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Va.
Tip: 2:30 p.m. EDT

Big Ten co-Champion Iowa takes to the court on Sunday a winner of 12 of its last 15, including a winning streak of eight straight during conference play. The Hawkeyes paced the conference this year with a league-best five road wins in league action. Iowa is a high-octane offense that loves to play defense as well. The Hawkeyes were 12-2 in the 14 games this season they held their opponents to 58 points or less, and managed to rank second in both field-goal percentage (.442) and field-goal percentage defense (.378) among conference teams. Kristi Smith averages 13.2 points per game and has netted 15 points or more on 14 occasions this year, including four 20-point performances. Wendy Ausdemore, a deep-shooting threat, ranks second on the team with 11.5 points per game. Johanna Solverson, who is expected to play following a knee injury sustained at the Big Ten Tournament, has averaged five assists per game the last 11 contests.

Georgia is making its 25th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which is second all-time. The Lady Bulldogs have advanced to 17 Sweet 16s, 10 Elite Eights, five Final Fours and two NCAA Championship finals. The squad is led by Tasha Humphrey, who was named first-team All-SEC on Tuesday for the fourth straight year. She is also just the third four-time consensus All-SEC women's basketball player in league history. Humphrey is averaging 16.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game and ranks second and fourth all-time in school history in those respective categories. Sophomore Ashley Houts was the SEC Freshman of the Year last season and is currently leading the team and ranks among SEC leaders in both assists (4.6 apg) and steals (2.7 spg).

THE SERIES - Both Georgia and Iowa each have two wins against the other in the series. The first-round matchup will be the fifth meeting between the two schools, including the second time in the NCAA Tournament. Iowa eliminated Georgia from the 1987 event, 62-60, and also defeated the Lady Bulldogs months later in Iowa City, 66-56, on Nov. 28, 1987. The Lady Bulldogs have taken the two most recent contests with a 62-51 win in Iowa City on Jan. 5, 1991, and a 79-52 victory on Dec. 20, 1995 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

IOWA NCAA HISTORY - The Hawkeyes will be making their 17th NCAA Tournament appearance and boast a .500 all-time record at 16-16. They are 7-2 in first-round games. The 1993 Final Four participant has advanced to three Elite Eights (1987, 1988, 1993) and five Sweet 16s (1987, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1996).

THEY SAID IT - "As I told the players, this time of year it's not about seeding or where you're playing. We're in the tournament, and that's all that matters." - Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder

DID YOU KNOW... - This is the third time in Iowa's last four NCAA Tournaments that it has earned a No. 9 seed (2002, 2004 and 2008). The Hawkeyes were a No. 10 seed in their last NCAA Championships appearance (2006).

A HAWKEYE WIN WILL - Put Iowa into the second round to face the winner of No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 16 Bucknell on Tuesday.

No. 9 MINNESOTA (20-11, 11-7 Big Ten) vs. No. 8 Texas (21-12, 7-9 Big 12)
Arena at Harbor Yard, Bridgeport, Conn.
Tip: 9:30 p.m. EDT

Minnesota has eclipsed the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2004-05 season and is poised to begin its run in the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Gophers have found success by using a balanced scoring attack, as 10 times this season the squad has had four players score in double digits. Emily Fox ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 17.0 points per game, followed by Leslie Knight (13.6) and Ashley Ellis-Milan (10.1). Katie Ohm (7.9), Brittany McCoy (6.6) and Korinne Campbell (6.5) have also found double digits this year. Minnesota finished third in the Big Ten standings and was third in scoring offense (67.4), field goal percentage (.429) and tied for first in 3-point field-goal percentage (.388). The Gophers will need to revert back to those marks this weekend after struggling in their last contest against Michigan State at the Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota missed its first 21 of 22 shots from the field and its last eight of the game to finish just 25.9 percent from the floor.

Texas is making its 22nd overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2005. The Longhorns, under first-year head coach Gail Goestenkors, are 31-20 all-time in the tournament. They captured the 1986 NCAA Championship with a perfect 34-0 record and advanced to the Final Four in 1987 and 2003 as well. Texas earned its spot back in the field with stout defense, having led the Big 12 in steals this season with 10.45 per game, as well as boasting three scorers in double figures. Brittainey Raven ranked seventh in the Big 12 with 15.4 points per game, followed by teammates Ashley Lindsey (11.2) and Carla Cortijo (10.0), who were 25th and 30th in the league. Lindsey also ranked 15th in the conference on the glass (6.9 rpg), while Cortijo was second in assists (4.88 apg).

THE SERIES - This will be the fourth meeting between Texas and Minnesota. The Longhorns have won all three previous meetings, including the most recent in the 2003 NCAA Sweet 16. The 73-60 win helped propel Texas to the Final Four that season.

MINNESOTA NCAA HISTORY - The Golden Gophers are making their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and fifth in sixth seasons under Pam Borton. Minnesota's first NCAA Tournament appearance was in 1994 and the Golden Gophers boast an overall mark of 10-6 in NCAA Tournament play.

THEY SAID IT - "Not that I wasn't proud of the teams in the past, but I was probably more proud of this team because of everything they went through. The adversity that these kids faced has only made them stronger. Two years ago we went through a lot of adversity. To get ourselves back into the NCAA tournament is absolutely amazing." - Minnesota head coach Pam Borton

DID YOU KNOW... - Only two players on Minnesota's roster have played in an NCAA Tournament game, and between the two they have combined for only four minutes of action? Leslie Knight played one minute and scored four points as a freshman in the 2005 NCAA first round game against St. Francis (Pa.). Emily Fox did not score in her three minutes of play during the Gophers' 2006 NCAA First Round game versus Washington.

A GOLDEN GOPHER WIN WILL - Put Minnesota into the second round to face the winner of No. 1 seed Connecticut and No. 16 Cornell on Tuesday.

No. 9 PURDUE (18-14, 11-7 Big Ten) vs. No. 8 Utah (27-4, 16-0 Mountain West)
Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
Tip: 7 p.m. EDT

Purdue earned its spot in the field by winning the Big Ten Tournament and the conference's automatic qualifier. The Boilermakers had dropped three of the their last four in the regular season, including a matchup against Illinois. Purdue found its resurgence in the conference tournament and responded by knocking off Illinois in the finals to earn the automatic bid. Lakisha Freeman, who hit the game-winner at the buzzer against the Illini, and teammate Danielle Campbell each average a team-best 12.3 points per game. Campbell is the team's top rebounder at 7.5 boards per game, while FahKara Malone, the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament, nets 9.9 points per contest and leads the squad with 3.7 assists per game. The Boilermakers will need to improve on their scoring offense (59.1) and field-goal percentage (.389), both of which ranked 10th in the conference this year.

Utah was involved in a conference tournament thriller of its own, as the heavily-favored Utes were upset by Colorado State in the quarterfinals. CSU was 0-16 in Mountain West Conference play this season, while Utah was at the other end of the spectrum at a perfect 16-0. Utah dropped its tournament game, 60-52, which ended the nation's longest winning streak at 22 games. The Utes shot just 29 percent from the floor in the loss and were led by Leilani Mitchell with 19 points. Mitchell ranked third in the MWC this season with 16.8 points per game, just behind teammate Morgan Warburton and her average of 17.2. Kalee Whipple also boasts a top-five conference scoring average as her 14.7 points per game ranks fifth. In the national rankings, the Utes are third in 3-point field goal percentage (.401), seventh in field goal percentage defense (.350), ninth in field goal percentage (.468) and 10th in scoring defense (53.6).

THE SERIES - This is the first meeting between Purdue and Utah.

PURDUE NCAA HISTORY - Purdue is making its 15th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament and its 19th appearance overall. The Boilermakers have posted a 38-17 record over the past 18 trips. They captured the 1999 NCAA Championship and were runner-up in 2001.

THEY SAID IT - "I've seen (Utah) a little bit. They are similar to an Iowa team; they shoot the 3 really well, they move the ball and have a good motion offense. Having Iowa in the Big Ten I think will help prepare us for that." - Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp

DID YOU KNOW... - Purdue is the lone Big Ten women's basketball team to capture the national championship? The Boilermakers defeated Duke, 62-45, for the NCAA crown in 1999.

A BOILERMAKER WIN WILL - Put Purdue into the second round to face the winner of No. 1 seed Tennessee and No. 16 Oral Roberts on Tuesday.