by Mike Potter
Duke is exactly in the spot most people expected for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament opening this weekend.
And maybe UNC got a nice surprise.
The Blue Devils and Tar Heels were the only teams from North Carolina in the field when the 64-team bracket was announced Monday night.
But a half-dozen North State teams got come consolation a few hours later, as N.C. State received a bid to the WNIT along with East Carolina, North Carolina A&T, Davidson, UNC Charlotte and Appalachian State.
The No. 5-ranked Blue Devils (30-2), carrying the automatic berth from their ACC Tournament title, got the No. 2 seed in the Norfolk Region and will host MEAC champion and No. 15 seed Hampton (28-5) on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The No. 13-ranked Tar Heels (28-6), who were the ACC runners-up, received the No. 3 seed in the Bridgeport Region and will take on No. 14 seed and America East champion Albany (27-3) on Sunday at 2:40 p.m. in Newark, Del.
The Duke-Hampton winner will advance to Tuesday night’s 7 p.m. contest against the survivor of Sunday’s second game in Durham between No. 7 seed Oklahoma State (21-10) and No. 10 seed DePaul (21-11).
The UNC-Albany winner will face either No. 6 seed and CAA champion Delaware (30-3) or No. 11 seed West Virginia (17-13) on Tuesday night on the Blue Hens’ court.
Three other ACC teams received at-large NCAA bids. Maryland (24-7) got a No. 4 seed in the Bridgeport region and will square off with No. 13 seed Northeast Conference champion Quinnipiac (30-2) at home on Saturday at 11:15 a.m.
Florida State (22-9) got a No. 8 seed in the Oklahoma City Region and will take on No. 9 seed and Ivy League champion Princeton (22-6) on Sunday at 4:10 p.m. in Waco, Texas.
And Miami (21-10), which may have been a bubble team, got the No. 8 seed in the Norfolk Region and will visit No. 9 seed Iowa (20-12) on Sunday at around 7 p.m.
In the WNIT, the Wolfpack (16-16) will host Richmond (16-15) on Thursday at Reynolds Coliseum at a time to be announced.
State, which went 1-1 in the WNIT last season, is 1-2 all-time against the Spiders.
The State-Richmond winner will take on the survivor of another Thursday game in which North Carolina A&T (22-9) travels to James Madison (22-10).
Davidson (21-12) will be at Old Dominion (19-11) Thursday night while Appalachian State (20-10) visits UNC Charlotte (24-5), with those winners meeting in the second round.
The survivors of those WNIT second-round games would not meet until the fourth round of the tournament.
ECU (22-9) will play its first-round game at Western Kentucky (21-10) on Thursday night, and the Pirates cannot meet an in-state opponent until the semifinals.
They said it:
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “We just want to play. Of course it’s a great privilege and honor to host, because we’ve done that before and we hope to do it again. But the reality of this time of year is urgency. Hampton I know because we’ve played them before. They’re very well-coached — a very good team, athletic and quick. It’s an excellent game for us to get after and defend — I can already feel the one-on-one stops.”
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “Our kids are playing well and they’re excited to be in the tournament. I really wanted a three-seed because that’s the seed we had when we won the national championship (in 1994). …You can’t say enough about the leadership of our crew by our seniors Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Krista Gross and Waltiea Rolle. We’ve had a great year, but we’re not finished.”
N.C. State coach Kellie Harper: "We look forward to the opportunity to play postseason basketball and continue our season. This tournament has quality teams in the field, and I'm excited our club has been selected to be a part of the WNIT."