Patrick Kinas: Wouldn't It Be Nice?
BY PATRICK KINAS
RALEIGH – Wouldn’t it be great if Triangle college basketball fans were rewarded with three scintillating storylines under one roof?
Well, in less than a week, we’ll find out when the 2007 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament pairings are unveiled live Monday at 8 p.m.
NC State and the RBC Center will serve as host of one of the eight pods across the country for the first two rounds of the NCAA Championship. First round action will begin Sunday, March 18, with a quadruple-header, beginning at noon, with the winners advancing to the second round on Tuesday, March 20, with games beginning at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are still available, including quality lower-level seats, here on the NCAA Women's Championship portion of GoPack.com.
The Duke Blue Devils, the likely No. 1 overall seed despite losing their only game of the season to NC State in the ACC Tournament semifinals in Greensboro, will almost certainly be assigned to the RBC Center, having earned the right to stay close to home with such a stellar season. Should the Blue Devils push through the first two rounds, the road to their third Final Four in six years could continue through the state at the Greensboro, N.C., regional the following weekend, a site where the Blue Devils have won five ACC Tournament titles this decade.
Gail Goestenkors’ squad has visions of Cleveland, Ohio, and the 2007 Final Four, hoping to avenge a 78-75 overtime loss to Maryland in a classic championship game last April.
Meanwhile, NC State (23-9) has surged from a team on the tournament bubble as recently as a month ago, to a likely No. 4 seed. The Wolfpack has picked up a swelling bandwagon of fans by the thousands, thanks to the inspiring return to the bench by head coach Kay Yow, who missed 16 games after a third recurrence of breast cancer.
Since her remarkable return, her squad has ripped off 10 wins in 12 games, shocked the conference by advancing to the ACC title game after crushing NCAA-bound Florida State by 27, then conquering undefeated and top-ranked Duke less than 24 hours later. Seeking its first ACC title since 1991, the Wolfpack took three-time tournament champion North Carolina into the final minute before falling 60-54.
The Wolfpack is the only squad in the country to vanquish both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country this year, with its league tournament victory over the Blue Devils and a regular-season win over the Tar Heels at Reynolds Coliseum. Yow’s squad has seemingly been adopted as America’s Team after one of the more poignant seasons college basketball has ever seen. As the host school, the Wolfpack has emerged into a legitimate darkhorse to reach the Final Four, something that has happened only once in school history (1998).
East Carolina (19-13) was picked for a 7th place finish in Conference USA last October. Well, the Pirates, behind fifth-year head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener raced to a third-place finish in the league (11-5), recorded the most wins Pirate fans has seen since 1991-92 (21-8) and feverishly rallied past Rice 79-70 on Sunday, en route to the C-USA title game in Tulsa, OK. Pirate fans have to rewind 25 years to find the only other time ECU was invited to the NCAAs, losing to South Carolina in the first round of the 1982 championship under Cathy Adnruzzi.
So while a kindergartner fingerpainting the collective school colors of purple, blue and red onto white poster board would resemble a muddy mess, Triangle basketball fans could see a bright rainbow of those same school colors cascading onto the hardwood, with ECU, NC State and Duke each carving out a storybook season they will never forget, with the binder of the first chapter potentially opening in Raleigh.
Patrick Kinas is the voice of NC State women’s basketball and the Double-A Carolina Mudcats of the Southern League.