STORRS, Conn. - Ana Overgaard grew up watching and idolizing the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.
"Oh yeah, I watched them on ESPN all through their winning streak, and of course Geno (Auriemma) is infamous," Overgaard said.
Now, in her final year as a member of the Idaho women's basketball team, the senior guard from Weiser is getting a shot to play them.
After winning the Western Athletic Conference title last Saturday with a 67-64 victory over Seattle, the Vandals (17-15) earned an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. On Monday, Idaho found out its fate: A 16th seed and a 2,755-mile trip to the East Coast to face powerhouse UConn (29-4), the No. 1 seed.
"When I heard we were playing them, my initial thought was, 'Oh, I get to shake (Auriemma's) hand,'" Overgaard said with a laugh. "Kind of awe-struck."
Idaho will tip-off against the Huskies at 11:30 a.m. MDT Saturday (whiparound coverage on ESPN2) at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. The winner will face either No. 8 Vanderbilt or No. 9 Saint Joseph's.
Overgaard's journey to become a Vandal seems fitting in the rise of the program's success through the years.
A small-town kid who walked on to the program, earned a scholarship and is now playing in the NCAA Tournament. For Overgaard, it doesn't get any better than this.
"Definitely fairy tale would be the way to describe it," she said. "I don't know, just seeing Idaho's name when they announced the bracket was pretty cool. And I was born and raised a Vandal; it's very surreal."
Idaho landed in the Big Dance in dramatic fashion. After starting the season 4-10, the Vandals banded together and wound up the No. 3 seed in the WAC Tournament. From there, Idaho strung together an impressive three-game streak, winning by a combined total of just seven points. Not many predicted the Vandals would be playing in Storrs in late March, but some of the best stories are the ones nobody anticipates.
"We've kind of faced that all year, too, even in our conference tournament, and we surprised people," said junior Alyssa Charlston, who averages a team-best 13.7 points per game. "It's important going into the game knowing how good these (UConn) girls are. But at the same time, you know, it's fun to be the underdog. You know a lot of people root for the underdog."
Idaho, a young and upcoming program under fifth-year head coach Jon Newlee, features a roster with only three seniors. The team starts three freshmen. Auriemma said when watching the Vandals on film he saw some similarities.
"They remind me of the team we had when we went to the Final Four in 1991," he said. "Five players that nobody had heard of. I'm sure Idaho is going to come out and they're going to play inspired."
As Idaho gets ready to take the national stage, the Vandals are hoping to leave a lasting impression on UConn and everybody else watching.
"Well, we don't just grow potatoes," Charlston said with smile. "There is a lot more to Idaho as the state."