It’s a tale of two programs.
On Sunday, the Lady Lions expressed a sense of disappointment as they missed out on the No. 2 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. They received a No. 3 seed and instead will play No. 14 seed Cal Poly on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La.
“It’s motivation,” redshirt junior Dara Taylor said in regards to receiving the No. 3 seed. “You got to come out and play every day or it’s your last.”
Two-thousand seven hundred miles away, Cal Poly watched with joy as it not only earned its first NCAA Tournament bid in the program’s 19th season, but a No. 14 seed instead a No. 16 seed.
After the selection show, Cal Poly coach Faith Mimnaugh told the San Luis Obispo Tribune, “It gives me great hope that we may not just totally be pounded. We may be able to play with [Penn State]. We’ll see.”
However, unlike the men’s tournament where parity reigns, upsets are rare in women’s basketball.
“In men’s basketball, there is a lot more developed talent to go around,” San Luis Obispo Tribune women’s basketball beat writer Joshua Scroggin said. “In women’s basketball, there are a lot fewer upsets. The talent pool and the development aren’t as rich. So I think you’re going to see an overmatched [Cal Poly] team.”
The odds of Penn State falling victim to an upset would be the same as a 16-seed defeating a 1-seed in the men’s tournament. But no matter how great the odds may be in favor of the Lady Lions, there’s still a chance.
What’s the key for Penn State?
Nikki Greene. Not only in this game, but for future success in the tournament.
While Cal Poly comes from a non-power conference in the Big West, the team features one of the better centers in the college basketball, Molly Schlemer.
The 6-foot-5 junior center will challenge the likes of Greene inside the post.
“She can pull 1-on-1 with competition, even like sized competition if she doesn’t get doubled team,” Scroggin said. “She’s very strong at the one dribble, power move to the basketball. Two foot, turn around jumpers... She has the confidence to play against anyone.”
Yet the Big West Conference Player of the Year will need to not only score, but also play shut down defense on Greene.
In four of the five Lady Lions’ losses, Greene was held to four or less points and under eight rebounds. That vastly differs from the Diboll, Texas native’s usual play,as she averages 8.9 points per game and 8.2 rebounds a game.
Greene also averaged 3.25 turnovers in those four losses. It is almost two times as much as she averaged all season with 1.76 turnovers a game.
It may be the only matchup that proves to be the Lady Lions’ Achilles heal as Cal Poly guards probably won’t be able to consistently defend or score against Penn State guards Alex Bentley, Maggie Lucas and Taylor, Scroggin said.
While most of the players said on Monday at the selection show that they did not know much about Cal Poly besides it is in California, lead scoring Lucas said that Penn State will need to play a full 40 minutes basketball.
But perhaps no Penn State player can afford to take a minute off more than Greene, as Schlemer has posed a challenge to opponents all year.