Time: 4:00 PM Eastern
TV/Net:ESPN2* / WatchESPN
Radio: Not sure if Mickey...
Stats: It's a stinky GameTracker, but it's our GameTracker.
* May be regional coverage; all games at this time are on ESPN2.
In the 33 previous years of the NCAA Tournament, the Lady Vols are the only team to appear in all brackets. They have only missed the Sweet Sixteen once, back when the Baby Vols were all freshmen. Only one #1 seed has ever lost in the opening game in either the men's or women's tournament when Stanford pulled the feat against Harvard, losing 71-67 in 1998. Additionally, the game is in Knoxville where the crowd will be undoubtedly in the Lady Vols' corner. All signs point to a Tennessee win, so let's just look at the Lady Demons for a bit.
Northwestern State won the Southland tournament despite being seeded 4th and having been picked as the preseason #8 team in the conference. For the stats people, they are #175 in RPI, which is good for 29th of the 33 games Tennessee has played. (Baylor doesn't see why this is a big deal.) They are winless against RPI top 100 and their best win was a home victory over Stephen F. Austin, 66-54.
The team's best player is senior forward Trudy Armstead, who has played 26 minutes/game for 14.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. Point guard Janelle Perez plays the most, with 32 minutes/game for 10.1 points and 4.2 assists. Keisha Lee is the third double-figure scorer with 13.5 points/game on the season. It's a 9 player rotation, with 5 players averaging 24 minutes or more, and 4 averaging 11 to 15 minutes.
This team will struggle against Tennessee's size. Trudy Armstead and Presley Owens are second tallest at 6'-1" (Breanna Fuller is 6'-2" but only gets 3 minutes/game; after that, the next tallest players are 5'-10"), Keisha Lee is 5'-5", and Janelle Perez is 5'-2". They are not a running team, averaging only about 66 possessions per game on the season, and theyy are about -3 on rebounds/game on the season. The best three point shooters are Chelsea Roberts (41%), Janelle Perez (38%), and Keisha Lee (33%), and these three represent Northwestern State's best chance at the monumental upset since they are giving away an average of about 4 inches/player on the interior.
Prediction: 85 - 52 Tennessee. I kinda hate putting these predictions up, but it's tradition. In all seriousness, this game is a good reward for them winning their conference, and they should play free and loose; what have they to lose?
Mattingly Watch: Meh. Though if she were here, then at least we'd get her out of the way for a little while.
Why yes, they did play Baylor. How did you know? Baylor won early in the season 88-54. For those who follow such things, Metta Roberts was one of the officials. Not that it mattered.
Bonus: #9 USC / #8 St. John's at 6:30 PM Eastern. We'll just stay here for anybody who's watching this one. Winner assumedly plays Tennessee Monday night.