Doesn't get any luckier for DePaul's Lady Blue Demons.
Monday night, at the packed McGrath-Phillips Arena, DePaul students, alumni, and media heard ESPN announce that the Lady Blue Demons had drawn the #7 seed in the Des Moines Regional, playing the #10-seeded Brigham Young University Cougars.
Think of it....St. Patrick's Day....at the Allstate Arena...on the Ray and Marge Meyer Court.
I can be a little superstitious here. I'm thinking this may be very lucky for the Lady Blues. I'm reminded of Selection Sunday in the late 80's or early 90's, which just happened to be St. Patrick's Day. I ran into Coach Ray Meyer, all decked out in the wearing of the green, down to the green-accented carnation adorning his lapel. I asked him, "Coach, did you make your prayers to St. Patrick today? And will they help." Coach Ray laughed and said, "Well, St. Patrick and I go together." Playing on his namesake court, on the day...well, Coach Ray, now one of God's angels in heaven without a doubt, would be smiling that his beloved school would be playing an NCAA game on his court. So, for that matter, would his beloved wife, Marge.
Whatever blessings Coach Ray has bestowed on the ladies team can be seen in their 10th straight NCAA selection (more than ANY other college team in the Chicago area). And they're in some estimable company in that Regional. The legendary Tennessee Volunteers are the No. 2 seed.... and UT-Martin, the Ohio Valley Conference champ AND alma mater of Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt, is the No. 15 in the Des Moines Region.
The fact that the Demons were selected at all is a miracle in itself.
“I am so proud of this group for fighting their way into the NCAA Tournament,” an elated, hoarse-throated head coach Doug Bruno said after his team’s name appeared in the bracket, appearing on the same floor that bears his autographed signature at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
“This selection is a tribute to all seven players who could have cashed it in." he said. "When we lost five players including a WNBA Lottery Pick (Keisha Hampton), our starting point guard (Chanise Jenkins) and our leading rebounder from a season ago (Taylor Pikes). Our ‘Magnificent Seven’ rolled up their sleeves and went to work and are back in the tournament. I am just really excited for this group.”
In a tumultuous season, junior Anna Martin paced DePaul (21-9, 9-7 BIG EAST) in scoring in 18 games while reaching double figures in 27 of the Blue Demons’ 30 games. The junior scored a career-high 36 points in DePaul’s win over Cincinnati. Her 36 points were the most by a BIG EAST player in league games while it was the second-best scoring output by any league player this season.
Martin led the Blue Demons in free throw percentage (.809), 3-pointers (59), 3-point field goal percentage (.410) and minutes (32.7). She is second on the team in assists (97) and steals (50).
Fellow junior Katherine Harry was an honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection and Brittany Hrynko was a unanimous all-freshman team honoree. Deanna Ortiz earned the league’s Sportsmanship Award; marking the second consecutive season that award has gone to a DePaul student-athlete.
Martin earned all-conference honors for the first time in her career after averaging 19.0 points per game which ranks second in the league. The Kentucky native was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week once while earning a spot on the weekly honor roll in eight of the 15 weeks.
The selection of Tennessee is particularly poignant this year. As reported by the Associated Press and earlier in Token Female, the Lady Vols pledged to return to the Final Four this season after a three-year absence and to win a ninth national championship for Summitt, who announced in August that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
The Lady Vols face 15th-seeded UT-Martin Lady Skyhawks, who are making their second appearance in as many years.Led by coach Kevin McMillan, the Skyhawks were victorious in a record-setting 23 wins this season.
Summitt played from 1970 to '74. The teams will meet in Chicago on Saturday and are part of the Des Moines regional along with undefeated No. 1 seed Baylor.
"How about UT-Martin?" Summitt told the Associated Press after she and the team watched the selection show at her home. "I never would have thought about that, but it's real neat. I like my alma mater, but I like winning and moving on better."
Tennessee has played in every NCAA tournament and has failed to reach the round of 16 only once.
DePaul and BYU’s first-round game will be played 30-minutes following the Tennessee/UT Martin game which is scheduled to tip at 3:10 p.m. (CT). Both games will air on ESPN2.
DePaul (22-10) is making its 17th NCAA Tournament with its first appearance coming in 1990. DePaul is 9-16 in NCAA games and reached the Sweet 16 in 2011 and in 2006. The Blue Demons have reached the second round seven times.
BYU (26-6) earned an automatic bid when it was crowned the West Coast Conference tournament champions by defeating Gonzaga on Mar. 5. The Cougars are making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2007 while it is the program’s ninth overall appearance.
When I asked Bruno if he felt the Lady Demons hadhome court advantage, he said "One things all the schools have in common is that we've never played at the Allstate Arena. So we're all equal in that regard." I then asked Martin if she was going to ask some of the members of the Men's team about playing there. She laughed and said she hadn't thought about it but it sounded like a good idea.
All-Session Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased through the DePaul Athletics Ticket office (773) 325-SLAM (7586) for $42 (adults) and $17 (students and youth) each. All session tickets are for both games on Saturday and Monday’s second round game.
Single-session tickets go on sale on Tuesday, Mar. 13. Ticket are available at the DePaul Ticket Office or any Ticketmaster outlet.