PROVO — The announcement had some hang-ups, but overall, the BYU women's basketball team was generally pleased with the lot it was dealt by the NCAA Tournament selection committee on Monday. The Cougars (25-6) were given a No. 7 seed and will go up against No. 10 seed Auburn (22-9) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MDT in the first game of the regional hosted by No. 2 seed Stanford. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
The selection show was slated to begin at 5 p.m. locally, but a snafu by the ESPN networks revealed the entire bracket just over two hours prior.
"It kind of took some of the excitement away," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "But now we don't have to wait and we got a couple of hours ahead of schedule."
ESPNU was the culprit, showing the matchups via on-air graphics a few hours before the selection show began. Judkins heard it by word-of-mouth from several people, ultimately being grateful to begin preparation on Auburn a bit early.
So what does Judkins know about Auburn?
"Nothing, but I will tonight, for sure," Judkins answered when asked by the media on Monday. "The only thing I know is they played in the (SEC) Conference and they were in the middle of the pack, and that they're athletic and it's a really tough conference. We're going to have to be ready to go."
The early scouting report on the Tigers involves a high-pressure defensive-minded team that will test BYU's guard line throughout Saturday's first round game. The good news for the Cougars is that their three starting guards have carried the load for the team throughout the season.
"I think we're now getting to the point where we are getting better with every game," said BYU junior guard Brenna Chase, who along with Shaylee Gonzales and Paisley Johnson have formed what Judkins considers the best guard line he's ever coached at BYU. "Right now we're playing the best basketball we've been playing."
Those who observed the Cougars' run through the West Coast Conference regular season, and then in capturing the WCC postseason championship, would likely agree.
Although brimming with confidence heading into the tournament, the experience is lacking severely. Only senior forward Jasmine Moody has any type of NCAA Tournament experience among Judkins' otherwise very young team, and she is doing her best to prepare her teammates for what's ahead.
"It's a whole different playing field," Moody said. "The energy, the crowd — it's just crazy. So I think it's going to be a bit of a shock to our younger team, but I think we can handle the pressure."
So far the Cougars have handled most everything thrown at them this season, surpassing expectations in taking the WCC championship with players intent on continuing on the same course starting on Saturday.9 comments on this story
"I felt right from the beginning that we were going to be some elite team," Johnson said. "… I knew right from the start that we'd be rolling. I just have the confidence in us when other people didn't."
Johnson isn't one who lacks confidence, with her team following her lead throughout the season.
"Before every game Paisley tells us we're the best in our huddle, so I think we definitely have come to believe that," Chase said. "So I don't see how we can't go as far as we want to go in this tournament if we play the game we know how to play."