Badgers women seeded No. 7 for NCAA Tourney
University of Wisconsin women's basketball coach Lisa Stone finally was able to breathe a sign of relief Monday evening, and she and her players also had good reason to celebrate.
For the first time since 2002, Wisconsin has qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The seventh-seeded Badgers (21-10) will take on 10th-seeded Vermont (26-6) on Sunday at 11 a.m. (CT) in the Joyce Center at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. (live on ESPN2).
Second-seeded Notre Dame (27-5) takes on 15th-seeded Cleveland State (19-13) in the other first-round game at 1:30 p.m. First-round winners play on March 23 at
6 p.m. for the right to advance to the Kansas City Regional.
"To see your name up there and see where you're going, and it's close to home so we can get our fans there, your mind is just spinning," said Stone.
"From the men's show (Sunday), all the way until today, there has been excitement. Yes it is nervousness, but you're just so excited to take this show on the road. I'm so happy for our team. I can't say enough about our players and my staff."
UW-Green Bay (27-4) also made the field. The No. 12-seeded Phoenix will face No. 5 seed Virginia (21-9) on Sunday in Ames, Iowa.
Meanwhile, this will mark Stone's first trip to the NCAA Tournament as the Badgers' coach.
"I thought our body of work was very, very good, getting into the tournament, and being rewarded with a seventh seed is very good," she said. "Again, it's a credit to our players and their hard work."
Vermont advanced by winning the America East Conference title for the second consecutive year. The Catamounts, who are 0-5 in the Big Dance, will compete in their sixth tournament. Last season, Vermont lost to top-ranked Connecticut, 104-65, in the first round.
"Vermont is a very good team," Stone said. "I don't know a lot about them yet, but they are a team that is going to be excited to be there, just like we are. I know that they will play hard, and they'll be excited. I'm just thrilled that we get to play close to home against a great opponent."
This will be the Badgers' seventh NCAA Tournament appearance. Wisconsin is 2-6 in six previous appearances.
"We've made steady progress to get to this point," said Stone. "It's nice that we don't have to wait another two hours after this show is over to hear about who is in the WNIT, to be quite honest. I know there are teams that are waiting for that. All postseason play is important, but this is the Big Dance, and we're excited to go dancing."
Vermont won its second straight America East title and the conference's automatic NCAA bid. The Catamounts defeated Hartford, 55-50, in the conference championship game. UVM has won 10 of its last 11 games and enters the NCAA Tournament on a three-game winning streak.
Vermont is led by a pair of senior guards. May Kotsopoulos averages 17.3 points per game and Courtnay Pilypaitis adds 14.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The Catamounts shoot 41.1 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from three-point range.