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NC State women stay home, UNC headed West in NCAAs

North Carolina State’s Elissa Cunane high-fives fans after the team’s win over Florida State during an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference women’s tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, March 8, 2019.
North Carolina State’s Elissa Cunane high-fives fans after the team’s win over Florida State during an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference women’s tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, March 8, 2019. News & Record/AP

Although both teams were drawn into the Greensboro Regional, N.C. State won’t have to travel for the early rounds of the NCAA Women’s Tournament, but North Carolina will have to pack its bags.

The NCAA Women’s selection committee announced its field about two hours earlier than planned Monday when the bracket was accidentally posted on ESPNU. The NCAA, in a statement, cited a “technical error” for the inadvertent release of the bracket.

“We were in a meeting, talking about recruiting, and one of our coaches was saying, ‘They’re putting up on Twitter some of the brackets,’” NC State head coach Wes Moore said. “A few minutes later, ours popped up, too.”

N.C. State (26-5), the third-place finisher in the ACC and an ACC Tournament semifinalist, earned a No. 3 seed and will host 14th-seeded America East champion Maine (25-7) at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Reynolds Coliseum. No. 6-seeded Kentucky (24-7) and No. 11 seed Princeton (22-9) will meet in the other half of the Raleigh bracket at 11 a.m. Saturday, with the winner of Monday’s second-round game going on to Greensboro the following weekend.

UNC (18-14), which finished eighth in the ACC, received a No. 9 seed and will meet California (19-12) at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in Waco, Texas. No. 1 seed Baylor (31-1) will host No. 16 seed Abilene Christian (23-9) in the other side of the Waco bracket.

“I’m just glad to be back in the tournament,” said UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell, whose Tar Heels had not made the postseason field since 2015. “The pressure is not on us, it’s on our opponents. We’ve proved that we can play really good basketball and just glad to have the opportunity.”

Baylor was the top No. 1 seed overall and was joined by reigning national champion Notre Dame (30-3, Chicago Regional), Mississippi State (30-2, Portland Regional), and Louisville (29-3, Albany, N.Y., Regional) on the top line of the tournament bracket. Notre Dame defeated Louisville 99-79 in the ACC Tournament final.

Wes Moore wasn’t too concerned about not being named ACC Coach of the Year. He even voted for Clemson’s Amanda Butler, who won the award.

Four other ACC teams made the NCAA Tournament field, giving the league five among the top 16 seeds and eight overall, more than any other conference.

Syracuse (24-8) a No. 3 seed, Miami (24-8) a No. 4 seed, and Clemson (19-12), a No. 9 seed, were all placed in the Portland, Ore., Region. Florida State (23-8) was a No. 5 seed in the ACC-heavy Greensboro Region.

The biggest surprise in the field was that powerhouse Connecticut did not receive a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2006. UConn (31-2) was seeded second in the Portland Regional behind Louisville, which lost 99-79 to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament final.

The other national storyline was the at-large bid for Tennessee. The Lady Vols were seeded only 11th, but they were in danger of seeing their consecutive bid streak snapped. It’s now at 38 years and counting after Tennessee was one of the last four teams into the field.

This will be NC State’s 25th appearance in the NCAA tournament and third in as many years. Coach Wes Moore has taken the Wolfpack to the NCAA tournament five times in his seven years.

“Playing at home was important,” Moore said, as the Wolfpack is hosting the first two rounds for the second year in a row. “We thought it was pretty much a done deal. These kids have done a great job putting us in that position.

“Only 16 teams in the country get that opportunity, so it’s special.”

The game with Maine will be a rematch of the Black Bears’ visit to Raleigh on Dec. 15, when the Pack rolled to an 84-46 victory.

“We played a really good game, and they probably didn’t, so we had a pretty good win,” Moore said. “But they’ve beaten Carolina, and Duke was a three-point game, so they’ve played a lot of the ACC teams and had some success.”

This is UNC’s 27th NCAA tournament bid, with the Tar Heels having won the championship in 1994 under Hatchell. UNC made two other Final Four trips in 2006 and 2007.

“I told the team, ‘Listen, you’re good,’” Hatchell said. “’You can play with any team we play against from here on out. Accept the challenge and feel the exhilaration of the tournament.’”

California is an at-large selection from the Pac-12 Conference, finishing tied for sixth in the league. The Bears are led by 6-foot-4 senior forward-center Kristine Anigwe, recently named an ESPNW All-American. She is the only player in the nation -- male or female -- with a double-double in every game this season. Anigwe averages 22.9 points and 16.3 rebounds per game.

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