They are heading back to Louisiana.
When the brackets were revealed last night, ESPN showed that the selection committee assigned the Penn State women’s basketball team a No. 3 seed in the Spokane region of the NCAA Tournament. For the second straight season, the Big Ten regular season champions will play the opening rounds in Baton Rouge, La.
The Lady Lions (25-5, 15-2 Big Ten) will play the 14th-seeded Cal Poly Mustangs at 5:15 p.m. EDT Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. While heading back to Baton Rouge came as a bit of a surprise to Lions’ coach Coquese Washington, she said that she hopes it will provide some comfort for her squad.
“I think it helps a lot, I think we’re familiar with where we are going,” Washington said after the Lions heard their names being called. “We’ll have practiced in that gym before, we’ll have shot on that court before, so I think it will help a lot.”
Washington’s team has experience on its side and they will look to use that as they hope to make another deep run into the tourney. Every member of the squad has been to at least one NCAA tournament with the lone exception of freshman post player Candice Agee. For most players, this will be their third time.
For their counterparts — the Big West Tournament champion Mustangs (21-10, 13-5 Big West) — this will be the program’s first trip to the Big Dance.
Over the next few days, Washington said that her team will look more to tone its game play instead of making changes in preparation for the Mustangs.
“First of all, we’ll get in the film room and watch film so we can get prepared,” Washington said. “You don’t do it a whole lot different, a lot of it is just sharpening what you do. We are who we are at this point and we play how we play, so it’s not a lot of changing things or adding things. It’s mostly just sharpening your skills and getting ready to make sure you get the opponent’s best.”
While nothing is a guarantee in the NCAA Tournament, one thing is for sure — a loss will end the five seniors’ collegiate careers. On Monday, they weren’t ready to part ways with the Lady Lions just yet.
“As for as the last go-around, honestly it’s not going to hit me until after our last game,” redshirt forward Mia Nickson said. “We’re all just thinking about survive and advance, so we’re just continuing to play and just excited to be here right now.”