An expected loud roar erupted when the NCAA women’s tournament selection show revealed No. 1 Connecticut taking on 16th-seeded Prairie View in the opening round.
“I’m glad we’re not playing UConn on their home floor,” said UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who led the cheers and the claps. “I don’t mind playing anybody except Tennessee in Tennessee and UConn at UConn.”
The Great Danes’ coach got her wish two brackets later, when it was announced that the three-time America East Conference champions (28-4) were seeded 15th and will meet second-seeded West Virginia (29-4) Sunday at 3 p.m. in Baton Rouge, La. The winner takes on the winner of seventh-seeded LSU (19-12) and 10th-seeded Georgia Tech (20-11) on the road to the national championship in Nashville.
“I kind of figured we’d get a 15 or a 16,” said Abrahamson-Henderson, who also mentioned that she believed her team probably deserved a little higher seed than most of the experts had predicted. “It was based on the strength of schedule in our league, for the most part. But we’re happy with where we’re going. At least it’s a warm place.”
Abrahamson-Henderson said before the selection show that she knows just about every major college head coach.
“I know something about them,” she said. “They are very athletic, and they’ll be ready for us.”
The Great Danes played with the mantra “Three-peat: Earned not given,” all season. They have since added “hungry, but humble.”
“We’re the underdog again, and this team loves being the underdog,” Abrahamson-Henderson said said. “We have nothing to lose.”
Junior guard Sarah Royals said she and the rest of the Great Danes are ecstatic and extremely excited to be playing in the NCAAs for the third straight year.
“I’m so blessed,” she said. “Getting one NCAA ring was fantastic, but getting three rings is a dream come true for me.
“I didn’t really care where we played, because we have no control over it.”
Megan Craig, at 6-foot-9 the tallest player in UAlbany women’s basketball history, as well as one of the tallest female players in the country, said she would have been happy with any seeding and any site.
“I’ve only been in this country a couple of years, so I haven’t been to many big cities here yet,” said the Whangarei, New Zealand, native. “But I know it’s a warm place. I didn’t really think about where we might go or who we might play. I’m just so happy to be playing in the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row.”
America East Conference Player of the Year Shereesha Richards said she expects West Virginia to double- or triple-team her, just like most of the league teams did to her all season.
“Yes, I’ve had a target on my back, but all I can do is play my game and do what I do best,” said the conference’s top scorer and rebounder.
“I think it’s very beneficial that we played in the tournament the last couple of years. We go in with a lot of experience. We do have five freshmen, though, and now we can show them what it’s all about.”
UAlbany athletic director Lee McElroy called this weekend “surreal” with both the men and the women earning NCAA tournament bids in back-to-back seasons.
“I’m happy with the bracket,” he said. “We’re pretty familiar with West Virginia, because they were in our same bracket down in Delaware last year. It’s a nice seeding for us, and a great trip for our players and fans. Now I’m off to Dayton [this morning] to see the men play. It’s going to be a great week for UAlbany basketball.”