The 16th-seeded Boise State women’s basketball team has a tall task ahead when it opens the NCAA Tournament on Friday against No. 1 Louisville.
Only one time in the history of the tournament — men’s or women’s — has a No. 16 upset a No. 1.
That was the 1998 Harvard women, who upended top-ranked Stanford 71-67.
Can the Broncos join Harvard in tournament lore at 10 a.m. MT Friday on ESPN2 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.?
“I think our culture is we overcome adversity. We go down to Wyoming with one of the biggest crowds we ever have to win a regular-season championship, and ... we showed that we were the best in the Mountain West,” Boise State sophomore Riley Lupfer said. “I think we come into situations like that and we play our best basketball, and I think that says a lot about our culture and how much grit we have.”
Boise State (23-9), which enters on a 10-game winning streak, will need more than just grit to get past Louisville (32-2).
The Cardinals advanced to the Sweet 16 last season and are led by one of the best players in the country in junior guard Asia Durr. The ACC Player of the Year is averaging 18.8 points per game with 102 made 3-pointers at a clip of 42.3 percent from deep.
Louisville has twice reached the national championship game, losing to Connecticut in 2009 and 2013. Boise State has yet to win a game in what will be five NCAA Tournament appearances.
“Their ball-screen motion is phenomenal. They have post presence. They have size. They have a go-to player,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “They play multiple defenses where they can get out and just get after you. What they’ve done here in the last few years is remarkable.”
Having advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times in the last four years — never drawing a seed better than 13 in that span — the Broncos are used to adversity.
“I think it’s something that we kind of use for fuel,” Boise State senior Shalen Shaw said. “No one expects us to win.”
The Broncos learned in first-round losses to Tennessee (2015) and UCLA (2017) that starting strong can make all the difference.
“Last year against UCLA, we kind of came out and got ourselves in a hole, but the rest of the game it was like the same point margin,” Lupfer said. “We showed if we didn’t get in a hole, we could stay with them. I’m a big believer that you set the tone with how you start the game, so if we come in confident, hit a couple shots, we’ll be like, ‘OK, this could go our way.’ ”