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Gators, 'Noles get invited to NCAA tourney

UF, No. 3 in the West, gets at least one home game. FSU, No. 7 in the Midwest, heads to Iowa.

By DEBI JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


GAINESVILLE -- Florida guard Tombi Bell turned around and gave her coach a questioning stare.

Bell sat on the living room floor at coach Carol Ross' house Sunday afternoon and reminded her of something.

"This is just like last year, remember?" Bell said. "We kept saying we would be named in the last bracket. That won't happen again, will it?"

The outcome of last season's Selection Sunday was not repeated for Florida or Florida State. The Gators received the No. 3 seed in the West. The Seminoles are the No. 7 seed in the Midwest for the NCAA Tournament.

Neither team was invited to the tournament last season, but UF's pain was more public. The Gators were shown live on ESPN during the selection show.

This season, Florida's name appeared in the second-to-last portion of the bracket. The Gators' 23-5 record secured a high seed and a chance to host the first two rounds at the O'Connell Center.

"We were getting kind of nervous there at the end," junior Naomi Mobley said. "But we are excited to be playing, and we want to get a whole lot of home-court support."

UF faces No. 14 seed Holy Cross on Friday night. If the Gators win, they meet No. 6 Washington or No. 11 Old Dominion on Sunday. Tickets, ranging from $6 to $15, go on sale today. Call (352) 375-4683, ext. 6800.

FSU plays No. 10 seed Tulane on Saturday in Ames, Iowa. The winner faces the winner of No. 2 seed Iowa State vs. No. 15 Howard on Monday.

Florida guard Brandi McCain said she did not know anything about Holy Cross but UF would not take the matchup lightly.

"I'm looking at Holy Cross like it's Tennessee or (Connecticut)," McCain said.

The Gators' best tournament showing was in 1997, when they advanced to the region final, where they lost to Old Dominion.

This season they have the chance to better that achievement.

"I can remember coming here 11 years ago and waking up on Selection Sunday knowing we were not going to be in the tournament," Ross said. "Our expectations are that we should always be in this tournament. Last year was a disappointing time for us, but it also put it back into perspective. We have to work to show that the committee was right and that our seeding was accurate -- to a point. Then we want to change their minds again."

FSU makes its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance, its first in 10 years.

"Obviously, this is a very exciting time for Florida State women's basketball," coach Sue Semrau said. "I am so pleased with the progress of our program and with this team in particular.

"They've really responded well and are very deserving of this tournament berth."

Tulane, the Conference USA automatic qualifier, makes its seventh straight tournament appearance.

"Tulane's got a great basketball program," Semrau said. "Lisa Stockton has done a tremendous job year in and year out with her program." The Atlantic Coast Conference, ranked second nationally in the RPI rankings, has six teams in the tournament. The SEC also has six. Only the Big 12, with seven, has more. "I think that a lot of teams have respect for the ACC, and I hope they include us in that respect," FSU senior co-captain Brooke Wyckoff said.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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