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Sports

N.C. State Gets No. 1 Seed; Among 5 NC Teams In NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament

N.C. State head coach Wes Moore celebrates his team's second straight ACC championship.
Mitchell Northam
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WUNC
N.C. State head coach Wes Moore celebrates his team's second straight championship in the ACC women's basketball tournament in Greensboro on March 7, 2021.

For the first time in the school’s history, N.C. State is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

The two-time defending champs of the ACC, the Wolfpack were joined on the one-line in the 64-team bracket by the UConn Huskies, the Stanford Cardinal and the South Carolina Gamecocks. The tournament field was unveiled Monday night on ESPN.

“They erupted. They were pretty fired up about it,” Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore said of his team’s reaction to getting a top seed. “It's something that's great for your program. It's great for our players to be recognized in that way. And they did beat two No. 1 teams in the country on the road. So, they did a lot of things to earn to earn that opportunity.

“But again, you throw all that out now and you got to go play basketball.”

N.C. State will begin play in the tournament – which will take place in its entirety in and around San Antonio, Texas – on March 21. The Wolfpack’s first opponent is 16-seed North Carolina A&T.

“Obviously, they've done a great job for a long time,” Moore said of A&T, the MEAC champs. “They've been very consistent. And, you know, they're going to press you some, they're going to get after you and make you earn everything you get… I know there'll be fired up about playing another in-state school. They know how to win, so we better we better be ready to play.”

The Wolfpack and Aggies are two of the five teams from North Carolina in the tournament field. High Point, the champs of the Big South conference, also garnered a No. 16 seed and will face the Associated Press’ top-ranked team, UConn, in its first game. This marks High Point’s first appearance in the tournament at the Division I level.

Another team that ended its long drought from appearing in the tournament was Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons drew a No. 9 seed and will take on No. 8 Oklahoma State in the first round. It’s the first tournament appearance for the Deacs since 1988, when head coach Jen Hoover was a player on the team.

“This is a huge, huge step for this program,” said Hoover, who is in her ninth season coaching at her alma mater. “You know, these kids and the players that have come before, just to have the ability now to hang another hang a banner in that in that Coliseum, that has gotten that monkey off our back, if you will. Now it's no longer the longest drought from the NCAA Tournament. We're in. No one can take that from us.”

Senior point guard Gina Conti added: “I definitely I came to Wake because I wanted to help be a part of a team that makes it to the NCAA tournament. And to do it in my fourth year here, that's something that's super exciting.”

 Wake Forest senior Gina Conti drives by a North Carolina defender.
Mitchell Northam
Wake Forest senior Gina Conti drives by a North Carolina defender on her way to the basket on Dec. 10, 2020 in Winston-Salem.

The North Carolina Tar Heels are also back in the tournament. Overall, it’s their 28th appearance in the field, but the first under second-year head coach Courtney Banghart. She led Princeton to the tournament eight times in her 12 seasons in the Ivy League.

As one of the selection committee’s last four teams in, the Tar Heels were given a No. 10 seed and will face No. 7 Alabama in the first round. Before the pandemic forced teams to alter their schedules this past season, UNC and Alabama were set to play in a regular season non-conference game. Additionally, UNC assistant coach Adrian Walters coached at Alabama last season. It’s a first-round match-up with plenty of wrinkles to it.

“When I first got here, obviously my goal was to not only to be in March, but to win a lot in March. But I didn't know how quickly that would happen, because we were going to build it in a way that was long standing,” Banghart said. “You know, coming from our tradition like Carolina, you don't get in because of your tradition, right? Just ask Notre Dame. You have to earn it year after year after year. And this group earned it and (we’re) really, really excited to be in it.”

In all, N.C. State, Wake Forest and UNC were three of the eight ACC teams that got into the NCAA tournament, which is the most teams for any single conference this year. Louisville, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Florida State were the other ACC teams that got at-large bids. For the first time since 1995, Notre Dame missed the tournament.

First round games in the tournament will take place March 21-24. The national championship game is set for April 4 in San Antonio.

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