Hatters make history with NCAA bid

Associated Press
Published March 14, 2005

After 24 years of trying, Stetson's women's basketball team broke through and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

The Hatters' reward? A matchup with LSU, the nation's second-ranked team.

Stetson (17-13) will face overwhelmingly long odds Sunday, when the Hatters meet LSU (29-2) in the first round of the NCAAs. The Hatters are the 16th seed in the Chattanooga region; LSU has the top seed in that bracket.

The other tops seeds are Tennessee, North Carolina and Michigan State, which is a No.1 seed for the first time.

The Big Ten tournament champions edged Stanford - which just last week climbed atop the Associated Press poll for the first time this year - to take the No.1 spot in a bracket that's sure to be tough.

That's because the Kansas City region includes the top-ranked Cardinal as the No.2 seed; Connecticut, winner of the past three national championships, at the No.3 spot; and Kansas State, runnerup in the Big 12 tournament, at No.4.

"We're just kind of ready to play a game, to be honest," Michigan State coach Joanne P. McCallie said as she celebrated with her team. "We've had a week off and these girls are getting grumpy."

Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer looked defiant when she learned her top-ranked Cardinal would be a No.2, the first No.1 ranked team not to earn a top tournament seed in since Texas in 1984.

"I have no reaction to that," she said. "We're really excited to be in the tournament. I love coaching this team."

Tennessee is No.1 in Philadelphia, and North Carolina topped the Tempe bracket. The women's tournament scrapped the East, Mideast, Midwest and West designations for regions this year and replaced them with the name of the city hosting the region semifinals and final.

The other No.2 seeds were ACC co-champion Duke (Chattanooga), Big 12 champion Baylor (Tempe) and Big Ten co-champion Ohio State (Philadelphia).

LSU, which was ranked No.1 much of the season, won the SEC regular-season championship, then dropped a two-point game to Tennessee in the final of the conference tournament. Tennessee (26-4) was the regular-season runnerup, losing only to LSU in league play.

Interestingly, the teams both will start the tournament in Knoxville. There are eight teams at the first- and second-round sites, twice as many as before. Each site has four teams from one regional and four from another.

Among teams thought to be on the "bubble" - Virginia Tech, Purdue, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Houston, Arizona, Oregon and Richmond - all got in. Iowa, Villanova and Xavier did not.

Three teams with impressive records that won regular-season conference titles but lost in their league tournaments also weren't among the select 64 - Delaware (25-5), Gonzaga (27-3) and Chattanooga (24-4).