The NCAA women's basketball tournament selection show is an acquired taste for Tennessee's Nicky Anosike.
As a freshman, she thought the team get-together was nothing more than dinner at coach Pat Summitt's home.
"I had no clue that there was an actual selection show and they would tell us where we were going,'' the senior center said. "So it's good to see how far I've come."
By now, she's experienced enough to realize that the annual event served up some different fare Monday night on ESPN.
Tennessee (30-2) was tabbed the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional, which culminates in Oklahoma City. The Lady Vols haven't been routed through this region in four years. Furthermore, only three teams from their regular-season schedule (No. 3 seed Duke, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Notre Dame) are in the 16-team portion of the bracket.
Should the bracket play out according to the seedings, a regional final between Tennessee and No. 2 seed Texas A&M would be the teams' first meeting since their lone encounter on Dec. 19, 1997, in the Northern Lights Invitational in Anchorage, Alaska.
"I like not having a lot of familiar faces,'' Summitt said.
The Lady Vols travel to West Lafayette, Ind., for a first-round game against Oral Roberts (19-13) at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sunday. The winner plays the Utah-Purdue winner in a second-round game Tuesday.
The bracket also represented a shift in the selection-night story line for Tennessee, which received a No. 1 seed for the 19th time. For the past two years, UT's placement has been one of the main headlines. Two years ago it was their No. 2 seed. Last season, they were put in the Dayton Regional, which was assessed to be the toughest of the four regionals.
This year, two of the biggest selection-show reactions were inspired by two promotional commercials, one featuring Summitt and the other featuring the players' doing their Summitt impressions.
That was until the show's end, when analysts Kara Lawson and Stacey Dales made their tournament predictions. Both picked the Lady Vols to make the Final Four and both picked the defending national champions to lose in the national semifinals. Lawson, a former Lady Vol, had UT losing to North Carolina, and Dales had the Lady Vols falling to LSU. Those projections sent a jolt through the room.
"It's motivation; it is,'' forward Candace Parker said. "I'm excited they didn't pick us. We're the defending champions. Obviously we still have more respect to earn. We're into doing extra credit I guess.
"It doesn't matter what other people think. It matters what we think in this room. We know what we're capable of."
While watching from the same chair she's sat in all four years on this night, Anosike came to the same conclusion.
"They never pick us to win the championship,'' she said. "Nothing that they say is written in stone. We proved that last year.
"We know a lot of people are underestimating us. We know that the most important people are this team and what we decide to do, because we proved last year we can still be on top no matter what anyone says of us."
Senior Alberta Auguste seemed more interested in what the opposition might be thinking about UT.
"Our bracket seems like it's easy, but it's never just a cakewalk,'' she said. "Every team is going to be out to get us."
First up is Oral Roberts, which earned the automatic berth from the Summit Conference. UT's preparations began with video coordinator Betsy McAllister augmenting UT's video library of the Golden Eagles. As of early Monday night, assistant coach Dean Lockwood said the Lady Vols had one game tape.
If Tennessee advances, the second round holds the possibility of a matchup with host Purdue. The teams met in Knoxville in the second round of the 2005 tournament. UT's 75-54 victory gave Summitt her 880th career victory, making her the winningest coach in Division I basketball.