Sitting side-by-side on couches in the team lounge, players on the Boise State women’s basketball team could only jump for joy.
The Broncos got together to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show Monday night, flanked by food, family and friends. After a day of anxiously waiting, Boise State learned it will play at UCLA on Saturday in the first round. The Broncos (25-7) were selected as a No. 13 seed; UCLA (23-8) is a No. 4.
The game starts at 4:30 p.m. MT Saturday at Pauley Pavilion, with an ESPN2 broadcast.
“It’s so exciting. The anticipation just kills you,” junior Shalen Shaw said. “We’re all on the same page (as a team). We want to keep on going as far as we can. And it’s definitely a team effort to keep this thing rolling.”
Undefeated Connecticut is the top overall seed in the 64-team field.
Boise State punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Mountain West Tournament and earning one of 32 automatic bids. The Broncos defeated Fresno State 66-53 in the MW title game Friday. After starting the season 12-1 and enduring a 3-6 stretch in January, the Broncos have won 10 straight and are playing their best basketball of the year.
The opportunity to participate in March Madness after an up-and-down regular season is not lost on the team.
“When you’re younger, you fill out brackets,” freshman Braydey Hodgins said. “But to see your name actually called is something really special. It’s something you looked forward to when you were little.”
It is the fourth NCAA Tournament appearance for the Boise State program (1994, 2007, 2015) and third under head coach Gordy Presnell. The Broncos are 0-3 all-time in NCAA Tournament games and lost to Tennessee 72-61 in their last appearance. Boise State lost to Washington in 1994 (89-61) and to George Washington in 2007 (76-67).
UCLA (23-8), ranked No. 15 in the nation, finished fourth in the Pac-12 this season and tallied wins over No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 Washington and No. 10 Oregon State. Washington handed Boise State its first loss of the season, a 92-66 defeat in Seattle.
The Bruins have three players averaging at least 10 points per game. Junior Jordin Canada leads the team at 18 points per game, while junior Monique Billings averages 16.8 points and 10.7 rebounds. UCLA lost to Oregon State 63-53 in the Pac-12 Tournament.
“They have one of the premier players in the whole country (in Jordin Canada),” Boise State head coach Gordy Presnell said. “They’re very well coached. What we’ll do is, each assistant will be divided up a portion of a scout, and we’ll work on it (Monday night) and present it to the team (Tuesday) and Wednesday and hopefully get ready to go play some ball.”
Playing at legendary Pauley Pavilion will be a challenge for Boise State, but it’s a challenge they’re excited for. The Broncos know they’re underdogs, and they’re going to play with nothing to lose.
“We have something to lose. But in reality, we don’t,” Shaw said. “(Just) give it all you have ... it’s going to be their crowd, their court. It’s kind of like the Tennessee game (in 2015). Everyone’s against you, but you have each other’s backs.”
No. 13 Boise State at No. 4 UCLA
- What: NCAA Tournament first round
- When: 4:30 p.m. MT Saturday
- Where: Pauley Pavilion (13,800), Los Angeles
- Records: Boise State 25-7, UCLA 23-8
- Broadcast: ESPN2 (Cable One 149/1149, Dish 414/5414, DirecTV 683)
- Radio: KTIK 1350 AM