Staying in NJ For Round 1

The Rutgers women's basketball team (25-4, 16-0), winners of the Big East regular season championship, has received a date with 14th-seeded Dartmouth (23-6, 14-2) in the first round. The #3-seeded Scarlet Knights will face off against the Ivy League squad on Sunday, March 19, in Trenton, NJ, with tipoff set for 7PM EST.

Rutgers' fourth consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament will retain a home flavor as the Scarlet Knights have been grabted a #3 seed and will compete against #14 Dartmouth in 1st round action. The winner of the Rutgers/Dartmouth match will play the winner of the #6 Texas A&M (23-8, 11-5)/#11 Texas Christian Univeristy (18-11, 11-5) contest.

Rutgers, under the leadership of Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer has now reached the NCAA tournament in 8 of the previous 9 seasons.

"We're just glad to have an opportunity to play," stated Coach Stringer. "We're certainly happy to have an opportunity to play in Trenton."

"Our troops are warriors in the first place. This team has done a remarkable job in what we consider to be the toughest conference in the country."

The depth of the Big East did not go unnoticed as 7 conference members received bids, including Louisville, South Florida, DePaul, Notre Dame, St. John's and Connecticut. The Huskies, winners of the Big East Tournament received a #2, while DePaul, formerly of Conference-USA, received a #4 seeding.

Rutgers is led by National Player of the Year candidate Sr. G Cappie Pondexter. Pondexter, recently named a unanimous choice as Big East POY, is #7 in the nation in scoring at 21.5 ppg.

"It's no pressure at all," stated Pondexter in front of a nationally televised ESPN audience in reference to the scoring pressure cooker she is placed under on a seemingly game by game basis.

"It's my job to do whatever I can do to help this team," continued Pondexter.

Certainly Rutgers forte is their defensive style of play, a suffocating brand of trapping defense that makes opposing teams wilt under pressure by forcing turnovers that lead to Scarlet Knights fast breaks.

"Our defense is our bread and butter," said Pondexter.

Indeed, Rutgers allows a mere 51.0 ppg game, which is good enough to be the top-ranked defense in the country. This suffocating defense was the main culprit behind Rutgers' regular season Big East dominance, a feat that looks ever-more outstanding in light of the 7 bids extended on Selection Monday.

The opposition will be fully aware of every step that Pondexter takes making the contribution of her surrounding cast integral if the Scarlet Knights are to advance deep in the Cleveland Region. As a result, So. 5-8 guard Matee Ajavon (Newark, NJ), last year's Big East Freshman of the Year and a member of this season's All-Big East 1st team, will be relied upon heavily. In addition, So. G Essence Carson, who was recently called for an offensive interference for hanging on to the rim (versus West Virginia, while participating in the Conference tournament), will also be looked upon for offensive firepower. During the year, Ajavon and Carson combined for a total 19.9 ppg. Rutgers averages 63.1 ppg, which falls in the bottom 50% of all D-1 teams.

If Rutgers is to advance deep into the tournament the offensive numbers from, in particular the aforementioned cast of three, will need to improve.

All NCAA Tournament games will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks.

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