Huskers to Face Sun Devils in NCAA First Round
The Nebraska women’s basketball team earned its 14th NCAA Tournament bid in school history, as the Huskers claimed a No. 10 seed in the 64-team field announced during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on ESPN Monday night.
Nebraska, which produced one of the nation’s top turnarounds under second-year coach Amy Williams in 2017-18, will face No. 7 seed Arizona State at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas on Saturday, March 17, at 2:30 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised by ESPN2, while a radio call of the game will be provided by the Husker Sports Network.
Texas (26-6, 15-3 Big 12) earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will take on No. 15 seed Maine (23-9, 13-3 America East) in Saturday’s second game at Austin. The Longhorns advanced to the Big 12 Championship Game, while the Black Bears earned the America East automatic bid by winning the tournament title. That game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. (CT) tip on ESPN2. The winners of the two first-round games will meet in Monday’s second round.
The winner of the four-team bracket in Austin will advance to the Kansas City Regional, March 23-25.
Nebraska heads into the NCAA Tournament with a 21-10 record after earning the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with an 11-5 conference mark. The Huskers also advanced to the Big Ten semifinals.
Nebraska’s 21 wins mark a 14-game improvement in the win column over last year’s 7-22 overall record, when the Huskers tied for last in the Big Ten Conference. The improvement is the largest increase by any team in 2018 NCAA Tournament field and tied for the biggest jump in Division I with fellow Big Ten partner Rutgers. Nebraska produced an eight-game improvement in league play (3-13, 2016-17).
Williams earned 2018 Big Ten Conference Coach-of-the-Year honors from the league coaches and media and is one of 10 semifinalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith National Coach-of-the-Year award.
The Huskers, who earned their first NCAA bid since facing Syracuse in the 2015 first round at Columbia, S.C., are led on the court by second-team All-Big Ten point guard Hannah Whitish. The 5-9 sophomore from Barneveld, Wis., leads Nebraska in scoring (12.6 ppg), assists (4.8 apg) and steals (1.3 spg).
Inside, freshman Kate Cain has made a major impact at both ends of the court for the Big Red. The 6-5 center from Middletown, N.Y., adds 10.1 points per game while leading Nebraska in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and blocked shots (3.2 bpg). Cain’s Big Ten-leading 100 blocks have smashed Nebraska’s single-season school record and rank her among the top-five shot-blockers in the nation this season. She was the only freshman or sophomore to earn a spot on the five-player Big Ten All-Defensive Team and she was also one of five conference newcomers on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
With Cain in the middle and a commitment to defense for the entire Nebraska team, the Huskers improved by 13 points defensively from a year ago, allowing just 63.3 points per game this season. The Huskers led the Big Ten in both field goal percentage defense (.371) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.302) in 2017-18. Despite losing their starting front line, the Huskers were also six points per game better on the offensive end this season.
Nebraska’s game against the Sun Devils (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12) will be the eighth all-time meeting between the Huskers and Arizona State. Nebraska owns a 4-3 edge in the all-time series, including a 62-58 win over the Sun Devils in the last meeting between the two teams at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln on Dec. 28, 2008.
It will be the first-ever meeting between Nebraska and Arizona State in the postseason, and the only previous neutral site meeting between the schools came in the first match-up, a 71-69 Husker win at the California Invitational on Nov. 29, 1979.
Nebraska’s only other NCAA Tournament appearance in the state of Texas was a successful one. In 2013, the sixth-seeded Huskers went to College Station, Texas and defeated 11th-seeded Chattanooga (73-59) before knocking off third-seeded Texas A&M (74-63) at Reed Arena to advance to the second NCAA Sweet Sixteen in Husker history.
Nebraska’s point guard on that 2013 squad was All-American and WNBA first-round draft pick Lindsey Moore, who also led the Huskers to their first-ever NCAA Sweet Sixteen as a freshman in 2010. Moore is now a graduate assistant at Arizona State.
Nebraska Coach Amy (Gusso) Williams will be leading her second school to an NCAA Division I Tournament, after also helping two Nebraska teams to the NCAA Tournament as a student-athlete.
Williams was a sophomore guard on a 1996 Husker team that earned a trip to the first round. She was a senior on Nebraska’s 1998 NCAA Tournament squad that advanced to the second round with a win over New Mexico in Norfolk, Va.
As a second-year Division I head coach at South Dakota, Williams led the Coyotes to the NCAA Tournament in 2014, before falling to Stanford in the first round.