Jeff Walz and his Louisville basketball team earned a three-seed for the NCAA Tournament.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – By the time Jeff Walz faced the
cameras, his initial snarl had been replaced by sarcasm, penetrating sarcasm
about the path that his University of Louisville women's basketball team must
navigate in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cardinals were seeded third in a regional that will wind
its way to the KFC Yum! Center for rounds three and four. Walz had the body
language of a coach whistled for a technical foul he had not earned.
"I was just hoping to make the tournament," Walz said. "I mean,
you know, with four losses and three of them to UConn, I figured we might be an
Insert the laugh track here. Except Walz, whose team is 30-4
and ranked fourth nationally, was not laughing.
You could also see it on the faces of Walz's players.
Several jaws dropped when the news flashed on the video board at the KFC Yum!
Center Monday night that Louisville was a three seed that would likely have to
beat another team on its homecourt to get back home.
"It's not necessarily the best to get a three seed, but
we'll take it," said Shoni Schimmel, the team's all-American guard.
"We've proven the impossible is possible and we have that
mentality moving into the tournament this year," center Sara Hammond said.
Here we go again. Two days. Two selection shows. Two U of L
coaches who are wondering how the Cardinals landed on the wrong side of the
NCAA Tournament Selection Committees.
Walz is just as puzzled as U of L men's coach Rick Pitino
undoubtedly is about the seed that his team was given for the tournament.
But this is worse. It's also better.
Confused? You should be. That is the world of women's
The women's game has a problem that it has not outgrown.
Until the fan base increases or NCAA makes a bold philosophy shift, the women's
tournament will remain flavored by homecourt advantages that the men's game
eliminated several decades ago.
Louisville was seeded third in the Louisville regional.
That's an advantage the Cardinals will enjoy if they can win their first two
games because they come home to play a regional.
But to get the advantage, the Cards will have to overcome a
disadvantage. They open NCAA play Sunday against Idaho in Iowa City. Win that
game, Louisville will likely play Iowa in the Hawkeyes' home gym.
Translation: No home cookin' until the Cardinals overcome
some home cookin'.
The best consolation is that it was Tennessee, not
top-ranked and unbeaten Connecticut, picked as the top team in the Louisville
The script is flipped for Kentucky, which earned the three
seed in the Notre Dame regional. The Wildcats open with two games in Lexington.
Survive those two, and UK will likely have to defeat Baylor and then top-seeded
Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., home of the Fighting Irish.
Then there is the state's third NCAA program, Western
Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are bound for Baylor to play Baylor – with no payback
games in Bowling Green on the calendar.
Such is life in the women's bracket. There are 16 first- and
second-round sites and the home team will start the tournament in 13 of them.
There are four regionals – Louisville, South Bend, Lincoln,
Neb., and Stanford, Calif. You guessed it – all four teams hosting those
sites (U of L, Notre Dame, Nebraska,
Stanford) are placed in their home regionals.
Here is the rub – Louisville and Stanford are lined up for
possible second-round games against a hosting team. Notre Dame, which was sent
to Toledo, and Nebraska, which is bound for Los Angeles, were not.
The Irish are a one-seed, one of two unbeaten teams in the
sport. You get that.
Nebraska is another story. Nebraska is 25-6, a four-seed in
the tournament. The Cardinals are ranked fourth, Nebraska 13th, but
it was Nebraska that received a pass for the first two rounds. Of course,
Nebraska also has Connecticut in its regional. Turns out, everybody can find
something to complain about in the women's game – except UConn.
"Just to get a three seed, I wasn't sure that we had done
enough," Walz said. "Hopefully we can make them proud and show them that we're
a good solid three seed in the NCAA Tournament."