No. 9 DePaul women’s basketball will mark their 13th straight NCAA tournament appearance Friday when they play No. 8 Minnesota in the Round of 64, with a chance for a rematch with No. 1 Notre Dame in the Round of 32.
With their place in the NCAA tournament locked up with a Big East tournament win, DePaul just awaited their opponent and location for the first round, which was revealed at the Selection Show Monday evening.
“I’m just so proud of the players that they’ve been able to maintain year-by-year consistency,” head coach Doug Bruno said.
DePaul (26-7) and Minnesota (23-9) will tip off Friday at 4 p.m. central time in South Bend, Ind. on ESPN2. The winner will face the winner of No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 16 Montana on Sunday, March 22, so if the Blue Demons were to make it to the Round of 32 and face Notre Dame, it would not be a neutral court, but the first round game should be full of atmosphere anyways.
“The stadium is always packed no matter who is playing there,” junior forward Megan Podkowa said “I feel like our matchup with Minnesota will be packed and it’ll be a fun environment to play in.”
DePaul played Notre Dame earlier in the year and fell 94-93 in an overtime classic that almost saw DePaul upset their former Big East opponent. However, the focus for the Blue Demons is still on the Gophers. The game will be clash of two styles, DePaul’s scrappy and quick play against the formidable inside game of Minnesota.
“That’s why the tournament is magical,” Bruno said. “Because teams with different styles from different parts of the country have to go against each other.”
The Gophers are led by sophomore center Amanda Zahui B., who averages a double-double with 18.8 points and 12.3 rebounds a game.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the Big East as formidable inside as Zahui,” Bruno said. “She’s a special player and she’s gotten exponentially better this season.”
The Blue Demons, however, may try and draw the focus to their own offensive style by making the Gophers adjust to the quick and flashy guard play of DePaul.
“Even though she’s a big girl and they’re going to try and get it in to her, they still have to matchup with our team,” junior guard Chanise Jenkins said. “We are very guard oriented but we have Megan Podkowa that stretches the floor and other bigs that can come on and be very effective for us.”
The Blue Demons come into this game winners of their last 13 of 14, and winners of their last seven in a row, including a Big East tournament victory.
“I don’t like to say we’re peaking because when you peak you have to come back down,” senior guard Brittany Hrynko said. “We’re still trying to climb that mountain and get to the top.”