Women’s basketball: BYU ‘happy to go dancing’ in NCAA tournament
Women’s basketball • 12th-seeded BYU will play NC State.
Published: March 18, 2014 09:57AM
Updated: March 17, 2014 11:20PM
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Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune The BYU women's basketball team celebrates as their name is announced as they watch the NCAA Selection Show in the Cougar Room at the Marriott Center, Monday, March 17, 2014. The Cougars will meet North Carolina State in the first round.

Provo • The seed isn’t ideal, but the location couldn’t be better.

That was the general attitude of the BYU women’s basketball team on Monday when the Cougars got an at-large bid to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

A 12 seed, BYU (26-6) will play fifth-seeded North Carolina State (25-7) on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

“I think it is a great place to play,” said Jennifer Hamson, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year. “It will be fun to stay kind of close. It is not too far away. … It will be fun, and it will be about us and how we play.”

It’s the Cougars’ second NCAA bid in three years. Two years ago, they won the WCC championship and were shipped to Chicago to play DePaul.

Coach Jeff Judkins said the Cougars aren’t just happy to be in the tournament this year.

“As we talked about before [the bracket] came out, we are not here just to get to the tournament. We really want to play our best basketball and represent this university and this conference the best that we can.”

Judkins said he watched NC State play on television just once this season. The Wolfpack, ranked 14th in the last AP Top 25 rankings, took fourth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an 11-5 league record. Undefeated Notre Dame swamped the Wolfpack 84-60 in the conference tournament semifinals.

“We have a good opportunity,” Judkins said. “I think the team we are going to meet is very close to us, and it will be a great matchup.”

Neither Hamson, nor Lexi Eaton, Morgan Bailey or Kim Parker said they have seen NC State play. The winner will face the Fresno State-Nebraska winner on Monday in Los Angeles.

“Going to this tournament is huge for us,” Parker said. “I have been there one other time. It is really special to say that you are one of the top 64 teams to get in. … We are going to work hard so we are ready to make some noise in the tournament.”

ESPN announced that BYU was among the last four teams to get an at-large bid. Judkins said he thought the Cougars would get a better seed, but added that he’s been in enough tournaments to know that seeding rarely matters. Getting to play in L.A., where there should be plenty of BYU fans on hand to support the team, was more important to him.

“And it is who you match up with, and what style of basketball they play, is really what it all comes down to,” he said.

Added Eaton, an all-WCC selection: “We would like higher, but we will take it. We are just happy to go dancing.”

drew@sltrib.com