Summitt and Warlick on the NCAA Tournament
Pat Summitt knows better than to look ahead at this time of the year.
The Tennessee women's basketball coach might be tempted to look back, though, since her team will play her former college team in the NCAA tournament.
The Lady Vols (24-8) were tabbed Monday the No. 2 seed in the Des Moines (Iowa) Regional and will open against No. 15 seed UT Martin (23-8) on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 4:10 p.m.) at Allstate Arena in Chicago. Summitt graduated from Martin in 1974 and played basketball there for four seasons. Just like UT, a campus street at Martin and the basketball court are named after her.
"I never would've have thought about it," Summitt said. "It's kind of neat."
The other first-round game in Chicago will be No. 7 DePaul, the host school, versus No. 10 BYU. The winners meet at 9:30 p.m. next Monday.
The No. 1 seed in Tennessee's region is Baylor. Led by 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner, the Lady
Bears are 34-0 and the prohibitive favorites of the 64-team field. The Lady Vols couldn't help but notice Baylor's presence. Since its regional was revealed last on ESPN's selection show, UT's name was one of the last to appear.
The regional also includes No. 3 Delaware (30-1), which is led by forward Elena Delle Donne, who leads the nation in scoring, averaging 27.5 points per game.
"It's a very, very good region," assistant coach Dean Lockwood said. "Obviously, Baylor is the monster that everyone is aware of."
The coaches will stress not looking ahead and hope that the team's wealth of experience will aid their cause.
"We've got a veteran team," assistant coach Mickie DeMoss said, "and if you've been around the game long enough, the minute you take your eye off your opponent is when you're going to get sucker punched. They have to know that we have to focus on the task at hand.
Lady Vols look ahead to NCAA Tourney
"We've been beaten by some teams this year that we weren't really supposed to lose to. So hopefully they've learned their lesson with that."
For Lockwood, Monday night's task was hustling back to the office and gathering some video of UT Martin. The Skyhawks (23-8) won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship along with the conference tournament championship. They are led by Heather Butler, a 5-6 guard from Medina, Tenn., who averaged 24.1 points per game.
The two teams have met 15 times. When Martin named its court in Summitt's honor, the Lady Vols marked the occasion with a 73-32 victory. The teams last met on Dec. 5, 2006, with Tennessee winning on "The Summitt" at Thompson-Boling Arena, 85-29. The teams have never played in the NCAA tournament.
"I think it's a good story line," DeMoss said. "Probably the (tournament) committee matched us up for a good little storyline."
Another one is Tennessee's Ariel Massengale getting a trip home courtesy of the tournament. The freshman point guard, who's from Bolingbrook, Ill., could barely contain her excitement during the selection show.
"When I saw DePaul-BYU, I just had to wait until we came up on the screen so I could go crazy," she said.
Junior guard Taber Spani alluded to the prevailing story line involving seniors Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen, Alicia Manning and Briana Bass. Spani indicated that the foursome's desire to reach their first Final Four could work to UT's advantage.
"That motivation," Spani said, "cuts through a lot of distractions quick."