Bulldog fans gathered at the Drake Knapp Center Friday morning to wish the women’s basketball team good luck at the tournament.
The Drake women’s basketball team will face Tennessee, ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll, in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Sunday, March 18, at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh. The game will be televised at 6 p.m. CST on ESPN 2.
Alumni and friends nationwide will be donning Drake blue and gathering with fellow Bulldog fans to come together as one Drake Bulldog nation to watch the game at local sports bars, living rooms and the following venues:
- Sponsored by Sodexho Campus Services, a pre-game party in Pittsburg will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Lower Lounge of the William Pitt Student Union on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.
- Central Iowans will gather starting at 5:30 p.m. at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, 4508 University Avenue, West Des Moines.
The Lady Vols, who own a 28-3 record, were seeded No. 1 in the Dayton Regional. No. 8 seeded Pittsburgh will face No. 9 seeded James Madison in the other first-round game.
Under the guidance of legendary coach Pat Summitt, Tennessee has the most storied women’s basketball program in NCAA history by capturing six national titles (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998) while qualifying every year in the 26-year history of the NCAA Tournament.
“We have great respect and admiration for the Tennessee program,” said fourth-year Drake coach Amy Stephens, whose team is seeded No. 16 and owns a 14-18 record. “It is a huge challenge for us and a special opportunity.”
Summitt is in her 33rd year as head coach and is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history (men or women) with a 951-180 mark.
Drake will be making its 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. But this will mark the first time the Bulldogs have played in the NCAA Tournament since 2002 when they were a No. 7 seed and advanced to the Sweet 16 in Raleigh, N.C.
Drake’s road to the 2007 NCAA Tournament is the Cinderella story of the season.
Suiting up only eight players while missing three starters with season-ending injuries or illness, the Bulldogs had to win four games in four days at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in Des Moines last weekend.
Drake matched Illinois State (2005) as the lowest seed (No. 8) ever to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament when the Bulldogs beat Creighton, 65-64, Sunday.
The Bulldogs downed Wichita State (78-63) in the opening round, top-seeded Southern Illinois (59-47) in the quarterfinal round, and Evansville (61-58) in the semifinal round.
Drake was the No. 1 team in the MVC preseason poll, but injuries derailed its season. Senior Jill Martin, the preseason MVC Player of the Year, was averaging 20.0 points before injuring her back five games into the season. She was redshirted, along with sophomore starting point guard Jordann Plummer who broke her foot on Dec. 5.
Junior forward Brandy Dahir, the team’s leading scorer (17.1 avg.) in Martin’s absence and a first-team All-MVC pick, missed the MVC Tournament after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.
“This is a special sports story about a team that fought through adversity all season long,” Stephens added. “To have an opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament and face a top-caliber program like Tennessee is really exciting.”
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