For the second straight year, the Seton Hall women’s basketball team is dancing. And for the sec- ond straight year, the Pirates will be in the same region as the undefeated UConn Huskies.
The Pirates received an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, as well, earning the No. 8 seed in the Bridgeport Region with a stop in Storrs, Conn. The Hall will take on the No. 9-seeded Duquesne Dukes (27-5) out of the Atlantic 10 conference.
When the bracket was unveiled, Baylor, UConn, South Carolina and Notre Dame were the top four seeds for the tournament. The Hall had been slated as a No. 8 seed in Baylor’s or Notre Dame’s regions over the past two weeks of expert predictions, but never ap- peared in the Huskies’ until Monday night.
SHU enters the NCAA Tour- nament coming off a blowout loss to Creighton in the Big East Tour- nament semifinals, 77-56. Prior to that loss, the Pirates had been on a six-game winning streak.
“We have gotten back to defense,” head coach Tony Bozzella said after the selection show on Monday night. “We have had probably our best week of practice in about two months. We are excited to get an at-large bid and get in the NCAA Tournament.”
The Dukes lost in the finals of the A10 Tournament, 63-60, as George Washington took the title in comeback fashion. Duquesne has lost three of its last seven.
When it comes to common op- ponents between the Pirates and Duquesne, the Dukes defeated St. John’s back on Dec. 19, blowing out the Red Storm 76-57 in Pittsburgh.
“It has been 20-something years since we’ve won a (tournament) game,” Bozzella said. “If we get to Monday night against UConn, God bless. We will be happy. We want to beat a very good Duquesne team and really represent the Big East and most importantly Seton Hall.”
The Pirates will have four healthy players who played in the NCAA Tournament last season for SHU, as well as the addition of
Shakena Richardson, who reached the Elite Eight with Florida State last season. She will be playing in her third NCAA Tournament.
“It is always great to be playing at this time of the year,” said Richardson, who looks to bring a calming presence to the floor. “I really think I can stress that it is just one game at a time.”
The Hall currently has a 58-percent chance of advancing to the Round of 32, according to FiveThirtyEight’s live in-game win predictor. From there, the team’s chances of advancing are slim, as they will most likely be taking on UConn, the No. 1 overall seed.
The Pirates will tip off in the NCAA Tournament on March 19 against Duquesne in Storrs, Conn., at approximately 1:30 p.m. after the conclusion of the Huskies’ game against Robert Morris.
Kevin Huebler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Hueblerkevin.