"We're happy to be back in the Big Dance," said Ross, whose 21-10 team is seeded 7th in the Dayton (Ohio) Regional and will play 10th-seeded Texas Christian University (21-10) in Hartford, Conn., Sunday at 12 noon Eastern time.
"We're excited to have an opportunity to compete for a national championship," Ross continued, whose Rebels went to the NIT last season. "Only 64 teams get that privilege in women's basketball, and we're happy that Ole Miss is one of those teams."
In her first and second seasons as head coach at Ole Miss, Ross and the Rebels made the NCAA field. They were a 10th seed in 2004 and lost to Villanova in the first round in Ames, Iowa. They were an 8th seed in 2005 and lost in the first round to George Washington in Chapel, Hill, N.C.
Ross said she felt certain before the announcement Monday night that the Rebels were in the field of 64. She basically had it figured out about where they might be seeded as well.
"We were hoping somewhere between a 5 and a 7 seed, but we knew it could be worse than that, too," she said. "This is a big step for the program and certainly we're still trying to find a way to get that first NCAA victory (since 1994 when Ole Miss beat the Indiana Hoosiers in Oxford in the first round). We will hunker down and work hard in preparation for TCU and try to take that next step."
If the Rebels win that game, they will likely play the second-seeded Maryland Terrapins, a team they've already played this season. If Maryland beats 15th-seeded Harvard, and the Rebels beat TCU, then UM and UM will meet again.
Maryland (27-5) won the first matchup 110-79 when the Terps were ranked No. 1 in the nation in late November. They are also the defending national champions.
But that is all in the distance as far as Ross is concerned. It's all about the Horned Frogs through Sunday afternoon.
"We're not in a position to talk about any team but TCU," she said. "We've never won a first-round NCAA game (since her arrival as head coach in 2003-04). It's a one-game tournament for every team, and if you don't take that one seriously and win it, then there is no second game to play."
Her players are excited about being in the field. The Rebels were among the last eight names called on the selection show Monday night.
"It's exciting. I'm ready to play," said senior guard Armintie Price. "I was nervous since they made us wait so long. It means a lot to get back into the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully now we can get past that first game."
"It's a little overwhelming," freshman guard Alliesha Easley said. "I've never been in this position before, being a freshman. But I'm really excited to get there and play."
Ross said she wasn't surprised that only five SEC teams made the field this time around. Only Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia, LSU, and Ole Miss made it in.
"Not surprised, but disappointed," she said. "If you're the No. 1 conference in the country, and the SEC has been all year long, we should have the highest number in, or at least as high as any other league. So it's disappointing."
UM women's basketball team dancing again
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