This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo - The NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Selection Show was nearing its end, and a wave of uneasiness was starting to spread through Studio C at the BYU Broadcast Building.
"I was really nervous," said BYU point guard Kylie Maeda. "I think I was more nervous watching that than how nervous I get in the games."
Finally, as the Big Dance's last bracket was shown by ESPN, the Cougars saw their name flash before their eyes. The West Coast Conference regular season champions drew a No. 7 seed and will face No. 10 Missouri on Saturday (4:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN2) in Austin, Texas.
Missouri (21-9) is making its first trip to the tournament in 10 years, while BYU (26-6) is in March Madness for the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons. The Tigers lost their final two regular season games before falling 47-45 to Auburn in the SEC Tournament on March 3.
"I am happy [with the seeding]," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "I think we got what we deserved. I think if we had won the [WCC] tournament, we would have been a little bit higher, but I feel really good about playing Missouri. I have seen them play a little bit and it will be a good matchup for us."
Missouri routed the WCC's Saint Mary's and Loyola Marymount in December, walloping the Gaels 95-78 and the Lions 80-48. It fell 81-77 in overtime at No. 12 Texas A&M, a team the Cougars upset 72-64 in Hawaii in December.
BYU star Lexi Rydalch, the leading scorer in WCC history, said she doesn't know much about Missouri but is thankful the Cougars have time to prepare before they leave for Austin on Thursday.
"We have a great scout team that is going to learn all their plays, and we are going to be prepared by Friday. We've got lots of time," said Rydalch, who also admitted she was nervous as matchup after matchup was announced before the BYU-Missouri clash showed up second-to-last, in front of only the Texas-Alabama State game.
Winners of those two games will meet on Monday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.
Judkins said the Cougars are a hungry team after being upset 70-68 by San Francisco in the WCC tournament championship game last week.
"This has been the longest week in [the history of] mankind," Judkins said. "I think the reason is we were the best team, and we should have won it. We didn't do what we needed to do, and so the fastest way of getting that taste out of your mouth is to play again."
It will be BYU's 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and eighth appearance in Judkins' 15 years as the head coach. The Cougars' RPI is an eye-popping 16, but there was no disappointment Monday night over the seeding, which ties for the program's best seeding ever.
There was an audible sigh of relief, however, when the show was winding down and the Cougars knew they would be in the same regional as powerful and undefeated UConn. When they learned they wouldn't face the Huskies before the third round, spirits soared.
"I mean, you don't want to meet them early," Rydalch said, explaining the relief. "But it is fun to go against them. We gave them a good game [two years ago], so we are confident in our abilities. We are ready to come out, fists flying, for any team."
Rydalch said she is especially eager to play well and atone for a subpar outing against San Francisco.
"Totally, totally," she said. "That last loss hurt a lot, so we are excited to have another chance to play and to get ready and be prepared to play in March Madness. There's no better time than March Madness."
Even if you have to wait for it.
No. 7 BYU vs. No. 10 Missouri
P NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, first round, at Austin, Texas
Tipoff • Saturday, 4:30 p.m. MDT
TV • ESPN2