I met with the Western Kentucky women’s basketball team as it arrived back in Bowling Green on Sunday, one day before it learns its NCAA tournament opponent Monday night.
The Lady Toppers (24-8) traveled back from New Orleans by bus Sunday after beating Arkansas State 61-60 on Saturday in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship.
In ESPN women’s bracketologist Charlie Creme’s final bracket projection before Selection Monday, he places WKU as a No. 14 seed playing No. 3 seed Kentucky in Lexington. I talked with Creme earlier today about WKU’s seeding prospects.
Here are some of the comments from WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard and seniors Bianca McGee and Chaney Means after arriving back at E.A. Diddle Arena:
What have the last few hours been like? “As soon as the buzzer went off, I see Bianca take off running. Coach Collins and I, I think all of us broke each other’s back. We were hugging so tight. Seeing that and watching the replay, the greatest thing was listening to the commentators – listening to them talk about how the team fought back and hearing how Bianca was making great shots, how great Chastity was playing for 40 minutes. It was great to hear them talk about the players I have the chance to coach every single day.”
Getting NCAA bid at WKU: “At the end of the day, this is my alma mater. This is home for me. To have the opportunity to be able to have this chance to get us back to the big dance was pretty awesome.”
National exposure: “It’s very valuable. I turned my phone on and had so many texts, so many messages – not only from colleagues and friends, but from recruits. That’s a big deal.”
Next couple of days: “I want them to still enjoy it right now. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to win championships, and I want them to enjoy it. They’ll go to class tomorrow, and I want them to enjoy walking around campus and knowing their champions. And then we’ll go and see who we get. … We’ll scramble and get ready to do what we need to when we find out who we play and where we go, and then we’ll get the players ready. We’ll have a game plan, and we’ll be ready to compete. We’re going to compete and play hard. We’re not here just to be happy we’re in the NCAA.”
Possibility with seeding, opponent: “This is an opportunity for our program and our young ladies. The way draw goes, it goes. You can’t control those things, but what we have to do is be prepared on how fast of a turnaround it’ll be. It depends on who you play and where they send you. But I’m excited for them that they’ll get to experience that.”
Strength of schedule: “Those are things the selection committee looks at. You have to get out there and play some higher-RPI teams. But you do have to know where you’re program’s at. That’s one of the hardest jobs as a head coach, is balancing that. I’m proud of us going on the road and taking care of some of the game’s we did. That’s what I’m excited about. Even though this will be a new environment and new situation for us, I still think we’re prepared to go on the road. We’re going to treat it just like we do all our other trips.”
What last night was like: “It was awesome. It was fun to watch, fun to see, fun to read. Fun to receive all the text messages and notifications from everybody. We were just trying to enjoy each other. We all watched the game together – just trying to live in the moment, have fun and take it all in.”
Waiting for Monday’s selection show: “They make it big – Selection Monday. You find out who you play, when you play and where you play. I think everybody is so excited to be a part of something like that. I know a lot of people didn’t sleep much last night. Didn’t even sleep much on the bus.”
What have last few hours been like? “Not a lot of sleep. Just reliving it all with your teammates. That’s the most fun part. It came on TV last night when we were in the hotel all together, so that was really cool, getting to watch all of the moments. I don’t think much of us got any kind of sleep, but it was just a great time.”
Watching replay early Sunday morning on ESPNU: “It was fun just watching everybody’s reaction and seeing who everybody went to. That was really cool. I don’t know, just a lot of cool memories. I’m sure we’ll have that forever.”
Not being satisfied with getting to tourney: “We get here. Now what are we going to do about it? We’re just really excited, and we’re going to give our best effort. No matter who we play, no matter what seed we have, it’s just going to be a fun time.”