by Mike Potter
Well, the NCAA Division I Women’s Tournament selection committee actually did it.
Not in the bracket is UNC (20-11), which would have been the playing host team for first- and second-round games in Chapel Hill Sunday and perhaps Tuesday. Neither is Virginia (22-10), which had a very solid season under first-year coach and Duke alumna Joanne Boyle. (The committee did later reveal that Virginia was in the last four teams eliminated, while the Tar Heels were not.)
I guess we shouldn’t even start on any silly questions about Wake Forest (19-13) or N.C. State (18-15).
UNC apparently turned down a bid to the WNIT although State, Wake and Virginia are all in. The Wolfpack will host High Point (20-12) in first-round play on Thursday night at 7.
But the only Division I team around here with a huge reason to celebrate Monday night was No. 6 Duke (24-5), which got the No. 2 seed in the — say it with me, now — Fresno Regional and will take on Southern Conference champ and No. 15 seed Samford (20-12) in a first-round game at Vanderbilt Sunday night at 7:45.
The reward for a victory there? A second-round meeting with either the host No. 7 seed Commodores (22-9) or No. 10 Middle Tennessee State (26-6), whose campus is 37 miles away from Vanderbilt’s classy but odd Memorial Gym.
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie, whose two-time defending ACC champion Blue Devils were upset by N.C. State in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, said she had no complaints about the Blue Devils’ spot in the bracket.
“It’s so great to be able to focus on an opponent,” she said after the Blue Devils’ Selection Show watch party at the University Club. “We have been waiting a long time for that as other teams have as well. Practices have been very strong since after the tournament.
“We had about three days and four nights off and everyone sort of had to scoot after the tournament. I think we learned a lot from that. There are lessons for everybody. I think we are a hungry team, a young team. You face a lot of adversity traveling on the road for the tournament getting focused. I’m really excited to have that opportunity.”
Now, if you do want to see some ACC teams play in person during the tournament you shouldn’t have to go far.
They just won’t be Triangle teams.
Georgia Tech (24-8) will take on Sacred Heart (25-7) in a first-round game on Sunday at UNC, following the opening game of that doubleheader between Georgetown (22-8) and Fresno State (28-5).
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell had her statement about her team’s exclusion sent via E-Mail.
"Obviously we’re disappointed to not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament,” Hatchell said. “I felt like our performance against an extremely difficult ACC schedule and how we were playing in the last few weeks of the season would be enough to get us in, but unfortunately that's not how it worked out.
“I’m most disappointed for our seniors, that they won't get a chance to fulfill their goal of having an opportunity to play for a national championship. They’ve fought hard all year in the face of all kinds of injuries and adversity and it's a shame that they aren't getting rewarded for that hard work."
Coming to the RBC Center for the Raleigh Regional March 25-27 may be No. 2 seed and ACC champion Maryland (28-4), which is bracketed to take on Notre Dame (30-3) in a possible regional title game matchup.