Monday, March 17, 2008

Tennessee lands another No. 1 in NCAA tournament, will face Oral Roberts

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After being a top seed in the NCAA tournament 19 times, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt likes to see something new when the field is set.

As in new opponents, not a new seed.

The Lady Vols (30-2) drew the No. 1 seed of the Oklahoma City Regional on Monday and will face No. 16 seed Oral Roberts in West Lafayette, Ind., on Sunday.

“I know nothing about Oral Roberts,” Summitt said. “I guess I’ll be up for a little while.”

The defending national champion Lady Vols continued their tradition of gathering at Summitt’s house for dinner and to watch the bracket announcement together.

The players clapped when Tennessee was announced, but seemed curious about their first opponent.

“Where is Oral Roberts, coach?” senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle asked after seeing the regional lineup.

It’s in Tulsa, by the way.

Many teams in the Oklahoma City Regional are new to Summitt, or at least the current roster of Lady Vols.

They’ve never played No. 8 seed Utah, one of their potential second-round matchups should they advance past their first game—which they’ve always done. They’ve faced No. 2 seed Texas A&M only once, in 1997.

The Lady Vols also have a chance to face ninth-seeded Purdue, a team they haven’t played in over a decade, on the Boilermakers’ home court.

“I was a little surprised that we’re going to be in West Lafayette, but they support women’s basketball in great fashion there,” Summitt said.

Summitt said she was also surprised Tennessee’s regional didn’t include Rutgers, the team the Lady Vols beat in the 2007 national championship and again this season in a game with a last-second clock controversy.

Tennessee would only face Rutgers in the tournament if both teams again reach the national championship game in Tampa.

Another team the Lady Vols would only face in the national championship game is Connecticut. Tennessee didn’t play UConn this season for the first time in 13 years.

Summitt ended the series with Tennessee’s biggest rival, even though the Huskies had a signed contract to keep playing through next season. She’s declined to say why she made that decision.

Summitt acknowledged that a potential national championship between Tennessee and Connecticut would receive a lot of hype, because every game between the two does.

But it’s not something she or the players are thinking about.

“We’re just focusing on one game at a time. That’s what we’ve done in years previous, and I think that’s helped us be successful in the NCAA tournament,” All-American Candace Parker said.

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