AUSTIN, Texas -- The University of Texas women's basketball team is a No. 8 seed in the upcoming 2008 NCAA Championship as the Longhorns, under first-year head coach Gail Goestenkors, make their 22nd all-time appearance in NCAA Championship postseason play. Thirty-one conferences were granted automatic bids for the 2008 championship, and the remaining 33 teams were selected at-large.
Texas, 21-12 overall, earned one of the 33 at-large berths to the NCAA Championship. The Longhorns will start NCAA action at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., squaring off against No. 9 seed Minnesota (20-11) from the Big Ten Conference in first-round play on Sunday, March 23. That Texas-Minnesota game will cap off the eight-team, four-game first-round play in Bridgeport on Sunday and will be played at approximately 8:30 p.m. Central and televised on ESPN2 and ESPNU.
The winner of the Texas-Minnesota game advances to second-round action at Bridgeport to face the winner of the No. 1 seed Connecticut (32-1) versus No. 16 seed Cornell (20-8) Sunday first round game. That second-round game takes place on Tuesday, March 25 and game time and television are TBA.
Earning No. 1 seeds at the 2008 NCAA Championship are Connecticut, North Carolina (30-2), Tennessee (30-2) and Maryland (30-3).
With its 22nd NCAA showing, Texas is tied for third in all-time NCAA Championship appearances with Stanford and Virginia. The Longhorns are making their first NCAA appearance since 2005 and are 31-20 in all-time NCAA tournament games, winning the 1986 NCAA Championship with a perfect 34-0 record while advancing to the Final Four in 1987 and 2003 as well.
Minnesota is making its seventh NCAA appearances and its sixth in since 2002 (missing last year only in that span). Minnesota is 10-6 in NCAA play.
This will be the fourth meeting between Texas and Minnesota, with UT leading play, 3-0. The two last met in the 2003 NCAA Sweet 16 at Stanford, Calif., with Texas winning 73-60 on March 30, 2003 en route to its Final Four semifinal berth.
The 2008 first- and second-round games will be played at eight sites Saturday, March 22 and Monday, March 24 and Sunday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 25. The 16, second-round winners will advance to the four regional sites. The New Orleans Regional (at the New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La.) and the Spokane Regional (Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Wash.) will be Saturday, March 29 and Monday, March 31, while the Greensboro Regional (at the Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, N.C.) and the Oklahoma City Regional (Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.) will be Sunday, March 30 and Tuesday, April 1.
The four regional winners will meet in the NCAA Women's Final Four, April 6 and 8, at the sold-out St. Pete Times Forum (21,655) in Tampa, Fla.
Both the Big 12 Conference and Big East Conference are sending eight teams to the NCAA Championships -- the most by any conference. The other seven Big 12 teams playing in the Big Dance are: No. 2 seed Texas A&M (26-7, Oklahoma City Regional), No. 3 seed Oklahoma State (25-7, New Orleans Regional), No. 3 seed Baylor (24-6, Spokane Regional), No. 4 seed Oklahoma (21-8, Oklahoma City Regional), No. 5 seed Kansas State (21-9, New Orleans Regional), No. 7 seed Iowa State (20-12, Greensboro Regional) and No. 8 seed Nebraska (20-11, Spokane Regional).
In the 26-year history of the Division I Women's Basketball Championship, 13 schools have captured the national title, with Tennessee leading the way with seven and Connecticut with five. As mentioned, Texas won the NCAA Championship in 1986, becoming the first undefeated team (at 34-0) in NCAA Division I history. Last year, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Tennessee won its seventh national championship with a 59-46 victory over Rutgers.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP SELECTION NOTES
· Texas is making its 22nd NCAA Championship appearance (tied for THIRD-BEST in all-time NCAA Championship appearances with Stanford and Virginia)
· Texas' NCAA Championship all-time record: 51 games: 31-20 record (.608)
· Last NCAA appearance: 2005 as a No. 3 seed in NCAA Midwest Region (at Reunion Arena, Dallas); def. No. 14 seed Oral Roberts, 64-67, first round; lost to No. 6 seed Georgia, 70-68, second round
· The last two years, UT did not qualify for the NCAA Championship... Prior to that, the Longhorns made seven consecutive NCAA appearances (1999-2005)
· Texas won the 1986 NCAA Championship and also has made three Final Four showings (1986, 1987, 2003), seven "Elite Eight" appearances (1983, '84, '86, '87, '88, '89, '90) and three other Final 16 showing (1985, 2002, 2004) ... Texas has been the No. 1 seed FIVE times (from 1985-88, 2004), the No. 2 seed four times (1983, `84, `89, 2003), the No. 3 seed four times (1990, `93, `97, 2005) and twice the No. 4 seed (1992, 2002)
· Gail Goestenkors' NCAA tournament record (at Duke): 13 consecutive appearances (1995-2007) with nine consecutive NCAA Final 16 showings (1998-2007)
· Goestenkors' all-time NCAA Championship record: 36-13 (.735)
· Goestenkors' top NCAA finishes: National Finals (1999, 2006); Final Four Semifinals ( 2002, 2003)
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP SELECTION QUOTES
TEXAS HEAD COACH Gail Goestenkors
On the Longhorns' seeding and being in the tournament: We're obviously very excited to be in the NCAA Championship Tournament. It has been a long haul for us. At the end of the regular season we knew we had our backs to the wall and we had to win some games. I'm just so proud of the way we finished the regular season and how we won our two games in the Big 12 Tournament. I feel like we are playing our best basketball right now. We're excited to be in (the NCAAs). I really thought we were going to be a seven seed, but we're an eight, so it's a little bit lower than what I was anticipating, but at this point you just go out and play.
On how making it into the tournament sets a precedent for future years: We have talked about this season being a foundation for the future of our program. It is so important for us to get into the NCAA Tournament so that we have the players understand right now what it is all about. Our one senior, E-Bay (Erneisha Bailey), is the only one who has even participated in an NCAA tournament before. It is really important for these young players to understand what it is all about and what it takes to pursue a championship so we make sure we continue to get there in years to come.
On what it means to be a part of Texas returning to the NCAAs after a two-year absence: It is so exciting! The last eight years at Duke we were a one seed, so we already knew we were in and we knew we were a one seed, so the only question was where we were going to be playing. We felt like we were going to be in the Tournament this year, but at the same time it is exciting because it is a first time for so many of these players. To see the excitement on their face is what this is all about.
On what to expect at the Bridgeport site: We've seen Minnesota this year. We both played in the Hawaii tournament (the Wahine Classic on Thanksgiving weekend) and although we didn't play them, we had the opportunity to watch them play several games. We know the Big Ten and we know Minnesota is a big, strong, physical team that is led by an excellent guard in Emily Fox. Going up against Minnesota is a different style of play for us, so it will be exciting for us to match up against them. Now that we are in the NCAA Tournament we want to go as far as we can.
On the possibility of playing No. 1 overall seed Connecticut in the second round: Well, when you are in the NCAA Tournament it is truly about one game at a time. We can't even let the thought of UConn enter our minds. It is all about the Golden Gophers right now.
On how the team's play at the Big 12 Championship (advancing to the semifinals as the No. 7 seed) helped their confidence: We played some really good basketball in the Big 12 tournament and today we watched the film of the Oklahoma State semfinal game which we lost by three. As close as it was, we went back and saw that we really could have won that game. Although we lost, it still gave us confidence to know that if we could have rebounded a little bit better or made some of our open shots we could have won the game and been playing for the championship.
SENIOR GUARD Erneisha Bailey
On the team's turnaround: When we lost to Texas A&M two weeks ago, we knew there was so much more fight in us and we just had to show it. Coach G (Goestenkors) got real with us right after that in a team meeting and told us that if we wanted to go to the tournament and have that be a realistic goal for us, we had to win at least two of our last three regular season games. She was brutally honest with what faced us. Honestly, I think it just clicked for some people and we started playing better. We knew what we needed to do, which were the little things, and we made the hustle plays and that is what helped us win. We've done that over the last week of the regular season and through the Big 12 Tournament.
On their NCAA selection: I was sitting there eating at the table, looking down from the TV, and then everybody started cheering. I looked up and saw that we were the eighth seed. I thought to myself, "Wow," and it was just a nice feeling of taking that step to the tournament again.
On Minnesota: We saw them in Hawaii since they were in the same tournament we were in (the Wahine Classic over Thanksgiving) but we didn't play them or get the opportunity to see them play. But I saw the players on their team walking around and at the banquet, and they are a big team. We just have to be ready to play and do what we do best and maybe run on them a little bit.
JUNIOR FORWARD Ashley Lindsey
On her reaction to Texas' selection: They announced it so fast and early in the show that I didn't even realize what seed we had until Brittainey [Raven] started jumping up and down and screaming. We're all excited and we're all happy that we made it to the Tournament. That's been one of our main goals this season after missing it the last two years. It was relieving to be called early. We knew that we were going to be in the tournament and it was great to hear our name early since we haven't been to the tournament in two years, and only our one senior E-Bay (Erneisha Bailey) has gone.
On what the NCAA means to her: I am just happy we get to continue to keep playing. I haven't been to the tournament before, so this should be interesting this year. I am excited, nervous and everything you could be feeling right now!
On what solidified their selection: I think that our last three wins and beating Oklahoma put us in the top part of the bubble. But winning two games in the Big 12 Tournament, especially beating Baylor, pretty much put us in the tournament.
On playing Minnesota: I've never seen Minnesota play in person. I saw them one time on TV and I know they have some tall physical players and a good point guard. We just have to do what we have been doing lately and just focus on one game at a time.
JUNIOR GUARD Carla Cortijo
On Texas' selection: Of course I am excited, as my main goal this season was to make it to the NCAA Tournament. And, once you make it, after that, anything can happen.
On playing Minnesota in the first round and possibly Connecticut in the second round: I am so ready and excited to be playing in the Tournament! It's one game at a time and we know that. Connecticut is very, very good, but we have to worry about Minnesota right now. We might end up playing Virginia in our region, and we played them earlier this year in Hawaii, so we already have some experience against them and I am excited on having the opportunity on having a rematch against them if it comes to that.
REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE FORWARD Earnesia Williams
On Texas' selection to the NCAAs: The selection just popped up so fast and early and I almost missed it! We're all happy to be in the tournament and we're happy with our eight seed. It was exciting just to see our name be called up on the TV. We knew we had sealed the deal with getting some good wins in our Big 12 Conference during the last part of the season and with the way we had been playing in the last couple of games. Now, it's time to get to work and prepare for Minnesota and the travel to Connecticut.
ALL-BIG 12 SOPHOMORE GUARD Brittainey Raven
On her reaction to seeing Texas flash up on the ESPN Selection Show: I think I jumped up and took a lap around the room because I was really excited! We worked really hard to get to this point. It's a great feeling to know that we're going to the tournament.
On playing Minnesota and possibly Connecticut: We realized we were playing Minnesota and we were excited and then we realized we would have to play UConn after that if we defeat Minnesota. We just have to be consistent and keep playing like the way we have been playing. We can't have any letdowns and we just have to keep playing hard.