Duke women open at home vs. Hampton
Seeking to finally return to the Final Four after three years of falling one win short, the Duke women’s basketball team was assigned a short route to New Orleans on Monday.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils drew a No. 2 seed and begin the NCAA Tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium against 15th-seeded Hampton on Sunday (12:05 p.m., ESPN2).
If Duke wins, it would play the winner of Sunday’s second game at Cameron, between No. 7 seed Oklahoma State and No. 10 seed DePaul, on Tuesday night.
A win on Tuesday would advance Duke to Norfolk, Va., for the regionals, where two more wins would be needed to reach the national semifinals in New Orleans.
The idea of two games at Cameron Indoor Stadium before playing two games so close to All-ACC center Elizabeth Williams’ hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., brings and extra level of excitement to the postseason for Duke.
“That just brings a smile to my face because of Elizabeth,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We’ve been trying to schedule to bring Elizabeth home, and that’s not always easy to do. The idea of being in Elizabeth’s home area is icing on the cake.
“That’s something we have to earn, obviously. We have to take care of business and do what we do. But that’s certainly a motivator.”
The Blue Devils (30-2) are on a roll heading into the NCAA Tournament. Duke won its third ACC Tournament championship in the past four seasons on March 10 in Greensboro.
But the Blue Devils have spent the past week trying to put the elation of that win in the past and focus on getting to the program’s first Final Four since 2006.
“We kind of have to let that go,” Duke junior guard Tricia Liston said. “It’s a new season now. We have to focus on this tournament. The same rules apply: If you lose, you are done. It was awesome winning the ACC, but that’s in the back of our minds and the (NCAA) tournament is what’s on our minds now.”
Duke was placed in the Norfolk Region, where No. 2-ranked Notre Dame (31-1) is the top seed. The Irish, who will join the ACC next season, own three wins over No. 3-ranked Connecticut this season and have been the national runner-up each of the past two seasons.
But before thinking about facing Notre Dame or even Oklahoma State or DePaul, the Blue Devils have to beat Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Hampton.
“We just want to play,” McCallie said. “It’s a great privilege and honor to host. But the reality of this time of year is the urgency to play.”
Duke defeated Hampton 72-37 in the 2010 NCAA Tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium en route to the first of three consecutive trips to the Elite Eight.
McCallie expects a tough matchup from the Pirates (28-5), who have won 19 games in row. Hampton went unbeaten against MEAC teams and beat Howard 59-38 in the MEAC Tournament final.
Hampton played two ACC teams this season, losing at Virginia Tech 55-45 and beating Boston College 60-57 at home.
“They are very well coached, a very good team, very athletic and quick,” McCallie said. “They play well together and have great success. It will be an excellent game for us to get after and defend. I can already feel the one-on-one stops it’s going to take to win that game, given the quickness and the athleticism.”