The NCAA tournament selection show was humorous, thought-provoking and entertaining for the Tennessee women’s basketball team.
One response it didn’t elicit was disappointment.
Not even UT’s No. 5 seed, the lowest seed in program history, was a downer for the gathering at Coach Pat Summitt’s pool house Monday night.
The Lady Vols (22-10) were placed in the Berkeley, Calif., regional, where they will play 12th-seed Ball State (25-8) at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sunday in Bowling Green, Ky. (TV: ESPN2)
No. 4 seed Iowa State (24-8) and No. 13 East Tennessee State (20-10) play in the other first-round game at E.A Diddle Arena.
The winners play Tuesday for a trip to Berkeley.
Summitt seemed genuinely pleased that she predicted both the right seed and the right regional to her coaching mentor, Billie Moore, who lives in Southern California. It’s the first time Tennessee, the two-time defending national champion, has been routed through a West regional.
“I told Coach Moore (Sunday) night, ‘well, if we can take care of business, we’ll see you in California,’ ’’ Summitt said
Freshman forward Alyssia Brewer described the seed in this manner: “somewhat, it’s just a number.”
“In my eyes, the seed, it’s an important part of where you’re put in the bracket and where your location is but it’s not an important part of how this team is going to play,’’ Brewer said. “A 15 seed can get to the Final Four. You never know. It’s just the game you bring. You control the game, not the people, where they put you, or what seed you get. It’s you yourself. You’re the only one out there playing.”
Brewer was in a thoughtful mood after the unveiling of the 64-team field — which included seven SEC teams, which tied the Big East Conference for the most bids.
The one-hour ESPN show included a segment of Summitt rebukes from the season, which drew hearty laughter from the players. There also were candid comments from Summitt, who has wondered whether she could get the best out of this team.
“If you look at the camera all of us just looked like we were depressed,’’ Brewer said. “She never said that before, watching it on TV, it was kind of an eye-opener.”
While Brewer was holding court, Lady Vols assistant coach Dean Lockwood passed by on his way to the office. The coaches’ first order of business was learning about Ball State, which earned the school’s first NCAA trip with a 55-51 victory over top-seed Bowling Green (Ohio) Sunday in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship game. The 25 victories is a school single-season record for the Cardinals.
It will be the first meeting between UT and Ball State. The Cardinals did play one other SEC team this season, losing at Alabama 81-75 on Dec. 30.
At this point, The Lady Vols know this much about their first-round game. Bowling Green’s relative proximity to both Knoxville and middle Tennessee ought to ensure a strong UT fan presence.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a big boost for us, especially since half the team is freshmen; we’ve never been in this position before,’’ Brewer said. “Being able to have their support, for them to have our back in the first two rounds is going to be so great. It’s only going to push us forward.”
Notebook: X-rays on freshman forward Glory Johnson’s right middle finger were negative. The injury she suffered in practice Sunday is being described as a sprain. It won’t preclude her from playing in the tournament.