BYU women’s basketball to face Villanova in first round of NCAA Tournament

The Cougars earned the No. 6 seed in the tournament on Sunday

(Alex Vejar | The Salt Lake Tribune) The BYU women's basketball team watches the NCAA Women's Tournament Selection Show at the Marriott Center on Sunday, March 13, 2020.

Tegan Graham sat on the edge of her seat and spoke for much of the BYU women’s basketball team when she yelled, “I’m stressed!”

Graham and her teammates sat inside the Marriott Center on Sunday and waited for their university’s name to get called during a televised special on ESPN that revealed the 68 teams that will compete in the NCAA Tournament. As more and names of universities were called, the Cougars, who watched the special on the large video board that had been lowered to court-level, grew more anxious.

Then the announcers finally said “BYU” during the reveal of the final portion of the bracket, and the team stood up and cheered. The Cougars will face Villanova as they earned one of the No. 6 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova earned the No. 11 seed.

BYU will play Villanova on Saturday, March 19, in Ann Arbor, Mich. The time of the game is to be announced.

“I was definitely sweating,” Graham said. “I was sitting there and I was just like, ‘We’re really going to be the last section of the show?’”

But now that the Cougars have their opponent, they’re all business. Coach Jeff Judkins said he knows “a little bit” about the Wildcats and how they like to control the ball.

“It’ll be a big challenge for us that way,” Judkins said. “We haven’t seen a lot of that.”

BYU went into Selection Sunday with the No. 11 ranking in the NCAA NET. However, the organization’s Division I women’s basketball committee did not rank the Cougars among the top 16 teams in the country.

The No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament is the highest in the history of BYU women’s basketball.

“It means that we’re getting better,” Judkins said of the seeding. “It means that we’re scheduling better — we’re playing better teams.”

The Cougars ended their season on a sour note after losing in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game to Gonzaga. It was one of the few losses for the Cougars, who ended 26-3 on the season and undefeated at home for the second consecutive season.

BYU was the best WCC team in the regular season, at one point rattling off 10 straight wins. Sophomore guard Shaylee Gonzales was named WCC Player of the Year, while Judkins won the conference’s Coach of the Year award.

For a few Cougars, this upcoming NCAA Tournament run will be the last basketball they’ll play in a BYU uniform. Senior guard Paisley Harding did not shy away from that fact, and said as a result she is trying to appreciate every moment more.

“This tournament, it’s my last hurrah, the last dance for me here in college,” Harding said. “So it’s going to be a good experience and I’m just going and try and soak it up as I can and make the most memories I can.”