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March 19, 2014

Louisville women avoid UConn but get odd seed




He likely grinned to keep from screaming.

Just minutes after the bracket was finalized, University of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz was asked about his team's shocking No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"I was just hoping to make the tournament," he said, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "I mean, with four losses and three of them to UConn, I figured we might be an NIT team.

"Just to get a three seed, I wasn't sure that we had done enough. Hopefully we can make them proud and show them that we're a good solid three seed in the NCAA Tournament."

Hopefully his sarcasm translates into print because he was laying it on pretty thick.

Louisville, 30-4 and ranked No. 4 in the nation, is no better than the ninth-best team in the country, according to the NCAA Selection Committee.

"I told (the players) that if there is not a little chip on their shoulder about this, then it is their own fault," Walz said. "Like I said, we are 30-4 and three of those were to UConn. No one has beaten UConn, so I guess those three that we lost to them were really counted against us a lot."

Said UofL junior Sara Hammond: "I think this will give us a little chip on our shoulder. We've proven the impossible is possible before, and we have that mentality moving into the tournament this year."

Certainly Louisville is no stranger to overcoming odd seeding. Despite a top-5 ranking, Louisville was a 3 seed in 2009 and made a run to the NCAA title game. And then last season, when the Cardinals were slighted by a 5 seed, they beat four straight higher-seeded teams, including No. 1 overall seed Baylor and powerhouse 2-seed Tennessee, to make another run to the NCAA title game.


"In 2009 we were surprised to be a 3 seed also. You can't worry about where you get seeded. Sure we would have liked to be a 1 or even a 2, but we are not so now we have to move forward and go play basketball games."

There's good news and bad news for the Cardinals.

The bad news?
Louisville missed out on a No. 1 seed. They also missed out on a 2 seed. And the 3-seed Cardinals are also being shipped to Iowa City, Iowa, where they likely will play No. 6-seed Iowa in the second round.

The good news?
Louisville doesn't have No. 1 Connecticut in its bracket. UConn is responsible for three of Louisville's four losses and is the prohibitive favorite in this year's tournament, with No. 2 Notre Dame, also undefeated, the second choice.

According to Walz the bad news isn't all bad and the good news isn't all good. Let him explain.

Walz isn't all that bothered by having to play Iowa in Iowa City. The 2 seed in Louisville's bracket, West Virginia, likely will have to face LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

"It could have been flipped, but then we would have to play LSU at LSU," Walz said. "West Virginia has to play LSU at LSU. We played them once already this season in the third game of the season. So it could have been flipped, but we are both having to play somebody on their home court to get to the Regional."

Walz further explained, "Sure, we know there are some people that are sent to neutral sites, but we are going to have to beat Iowa in Iowa if we are fortunate enough to win the first game. Stanford, if they win their first game, is going to have to play at Iowa State, so there are going to be a lot of tough matchups out there."

And about UConn. Yes, not having them in Louisville's bracket makes it easier to make the Final Four, but Walz has a bigger goal.

"Someone is going to have to beat them," Walz said of UConn. "If you want to win a national championship, someone is going to have to beat them. If they would have been put in our bracket and we were fortunate enough to get to it, we would have had the opportunity to try to beat them at home, so that's the only positive we could have gained from it.

"But once I saw that Tennessee was a 1 seed, I knew they were coming here. We are trying to make some money on our women's tournament now, and putting them here in Louisville, they are going to draw a big fan base here. If we are fortunate enough to get out of Iowa City, then this could be a great environment."

The Cardinals will play 14-seed Idaho in their first-round game Sunday evening at 5:30 on ESPN. With a win over Idaho, Louisville will face the winner of 6-seed Iowa vs. 11-seed Marist, a game that will immediately follow the UofL game and will be televised on ESPN2.

SELECTION SHOW PARTY
How bad was Louisville's seeding?
Louisville hosted a Selection Show party Monday night at the Yum! Center with 1,000 fans in attendance. When the Selection Show, shown on the scoreboard at the arena, popped Louisville's name up as a No. 3 seed, the fans booed.

"I sensed a little bit of shock, but at the same time they understand what is ahead of us now," Walz said.

HOME SWEET HOME
As long as the Cardinals make it through the first two rounds of the tournament, they will return home to the KFC Yum! Center for the Regional semifinals and finals March 30 and April 1.

The first game on March 30 (Sunday) is scheduled to start at noon, and the second matchup of the day is slated to begin at 2:30 p.m. The winners of each game advance to Tuesday's 7 p.m. regional final.

Lower level all-session passes are $20 apiece, midcourt club level all-session passes are $40, and group (10 or more) all-session passes are $15.

Louisville would likely host top seed Tennessee at the Yum! Center. The Vols aren't the only top seed that would have to win on another team's home court. UConn likely will meet No. 4-seed Nebraska in Lincoln in the regional semifinal, and No. 1-seed South Carolina will have to beat No. 2-seed Stanford at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif.

"That's the way they decided to do it this year, to have the regionals at home sites of schools, so we've got to go with it," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "We've been on the other end. We've hosted regionals (in the past) and won. ... It's a big factor. It's a big plus for you."

Said UConn coach Geno Auriemma: "I don't believe in it. I don't think it's fair, and I told our administration, 'We're passing on it. I don't want to do it.' So we didn't."

The decision to have schools host regionals was made in an effort to draw bigger crowds.
Next year, the regionals will be back at neutral sites.


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