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UND basks in glow of first tournament bid

Let the Madness begin.

UND knew it was headed to the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament, but reality set in Monday night when it was announced on ESPN that North Dakota will play Texas A&M on Sunday in a first-round game in College Station, Texas, the home of the Aggies.

“It’s just an unbelievable feeling to see our name up there on ESPN,” said UND junior Emily Evers. “It’s an unreal experience.”

The viewing party for the NCAA selection show on ESPN was held at the Ground Round, which was packed with UND fans.

Only a few minutes into the telecast, cheers came from players, coaches and fans when it was announced that UND would meet Texas A&M.

“This is an experience of a lifetime,” said UND senior Madi Buck, the Big Sky Conference MVP. “I’ve dreamed about this since I was little and I had my sights set on this when I got to UND.”

UND earned its first-ever automatic berth to the tournament by winning the Big Sky postseason tournament last week at The Betty.

But North Dakota didn’t know who or where it would play. Speculation centered on UND playing in either Ames, Iowa, or Iowa City, Iowa.

Instead, the NCAA selection committee sent UND to Texas.

North Dakota received a No. 14 seed, while Texas A&M drew a No. 3 seed.

UND’s seed was expected but the location caught many off guard.

“It was a little bit of a surprise,” said Buck of the location. “But we take what we can get.”

The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff and will be televised on ESPN2.

UND enters the tournament with a 22-9 record while Texas A&M, which finished third in the SEC, comes in at 24-8.

The Aggies, who won the national championship three years ago, are ranked No. 14 nationally.

Sophomore Courtney Walker leads the team with 15.2 points per game. The Aggies are playing in their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament. Last season, they lost to Nebraska in the second round in College Station.

Along with UND, South Dakota also saw its name on the ESPN telecast. The Coyotes, who won the Summit League, received a No. 15 seed and will play No. 2 Stanford in Ames. South Dakota also is in its second year of Division I eligibility.

Two other regional teams, South Dakota State and Minnesota, were considered but did not make the 64-team field.

The selection show officially launches March Madness for UND, which reached the national tournament in only its second season of Division I eligibility. The team will begin preparation for Texas A&M today and will leave for College Station later this week.

UND coach Travis Brewster said the opponent doesn’t matter.

It’s March, he said, and you either win or go home.

“You have to play the game and we’re playing on their floor,” said Brewster. “But this is what you live for. You just play the game.”

Minnesota misses out

For the fifth straight year, the Gophers women’s basketball team will not play in the NCAA tournament.

Coach Pam Borton’s squad recorded its first 20-win season since Minnesota last made the NCAA tournament in 2009, but the Gophers (20-12) were short on quality wins, while finishing with an 8-8 Big Ten record.

Borton will have to settle for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the third time in her 12 seasons with the program.

She had made the NCAA tournament in six of her first seven seasons, including the 2004 Final Four.

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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