Duke, UNC women to host first round, NC State heading west
Posted March 17
Duke and North Carolina will each be very comfortable with the setting of their opening round games in the NCAA tournament that gets underway Saturday as each will be playing on their home floor.
Despite injuries to key players Alexis Jones and Chelsea Gray, Duke (27-6, 14-4 ACC) earned a No. 2 seed in the Lincoln Region and will play No. 15 seed Winthrop (24-8, 15-5 Big South) Saturday at 11 a.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“It’s exciting to play at home and have one last ‘hurrah’ in Cameron," said senior Haley Peters. "Already having senior night, this is just icing on the cake for us to be able to play and start the last leg of our season at home. It’s going to be exciting.”
UNC, who hopes to get Hall of Fame head coach Sylvia Hatchell back for the Big Dance, earned the No. 4 seed in the Stanford Region. The Tar Heels (24-9, 10-6 ACC) will play No. 13 seed UT Martin (24-7, 15-1 Ohio Valley) Sunday in Chapel Hill at 3 p.m.
"This is a great opportunity for our team," Hatchell said. "We have a young team with a lot of talent and I'm glad we will be able to start the NCAA Tournament at home at Carmichael Arena."
North Carolina State, led by first-year head coach Wes Moore, earned the No. 5 seed in the Lincoln Region and will open on Saturday night in Los Angeles against No. 12 seed BYU (26-6, 14-4 West Coast). Like Duke, the Wolfpack (25-7, 11-5 ACC) are also banged up having lost three starters to knee injuries, including leading scorer Markeisha Gatling during the ACC tournament.
Duke enters the tournament having lost five of their last 11 games, however, three came to undefeated Notre Dame – a tournament No. 1 seed - and the other two came to UNC. The Blue Devils beat UNC in the ACC tournament semifinals before losing to Notre Dame in the conference final. The winner will get the victor of DePaul and Oklahoma.
“I know [Winthrop has] got a tremendously balanced scoring attack with four double-figure scorers, which is always interesting to see that balance," said Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie. "From there, I’ll have to look at film to see how we’ll attack things tomorrow at practice. Of course we’re trying to do things to get ourselves better and then implement the scout report as well."
UNC has played some of their best ball down the stretch and have got tremendous production from ACC Freshman of the Year Diamond Deshields. While she might not know how the tournament works, she does put a lot of emphasis on winning.
"I didn't know what was going on and still don't understand the seeds and the brackets. I guess me being a player I just care about who we play," Deshields said. "I don't really care who other teams are playing on the other side of the country. I just want to know who we are playing and get ready for that game because that could be the last game of the season."
The winner of the UNC-UT Martin game will advance to play the Michigan St.-Hampton winner. The NC State-BYU winner will play either Nebraska or Fresno State.
First round games:
Lincoln Region: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Winthrop, in Durham; 11 a.m. ESPN2
Lincoln Region: No. 5 NC State vs. No. 12 BYU, in Los Angeles; 6:30 p.m. ESPN2
Stanford Region: No. 4 UNC vs. No. 13 UT Martin, in Chapel Hill; 3 p.m. ESPN