Seeding isn't a concern. Neither is their first-round opponent.
For the first time in school history, the Wyoming Cowgirls have earned a spot in the NCAA tournament.
And they can think about the details later.
"In my mind, it's being in," said UW head coach Joe Legerski. "Since Wyoming's never been in the NCAA tournament, that's all we were worried about.
"We just wanted to see the Wyoming name in the brackets."
And they did—but not before enduring a nerve-racking wait.
ESPN began unveiling the 2008 NCAA women's tournament bracket at 5 p.m. Mountain Time, starting with the Greensboro region and moving west. By the time the third of four total brackets had been revealed, Utah was the only team from the Mountain West Conference on the board. And with New Mexico already having secured the league's automatic bid, things were getting tense for Legerski's squad.
"Going to the bottom of the bracket, we knew we had a couple chances left," he said, "and sure enough, when our name appeared, we didn't even see the rest of the bracketing that was thrown up on the TV because it was time to celebrate."
The Cowgirls were given the 11th seed in the Spokane Region. They will face sixth-seeded Pittsburgh in the first round of the tournament in Albuquerque at 2 p.m. MST on Saturday.
But after seeing Wyoming on the television screen, even that much information was more than Legerski needed to know—at first, anyway.
"As you're just watching it unfold, you're just so focused on where you're going to be, and when we saw our name come up, the first thing one of my assistants was asking (was), ‘Where are we even going,' and I mentioned, ‘It doesn't matter. We're in,'" Legerski said. "After everyone kind of calms down a bit, you start realizing where you're at. I'm excited to go to Albuquerque, tremendous fan support down there. It's an opportunity for our fans to be able to get down to New Mexico, and we're looking forward to it."
The Lady Lobos, who wound up with the 12th seed in the same region as the Cowgirls, will face fifth-seeded West Virginia on their home floor on Saturday. Utah was given the eighth seed in the Oklahoma City region and will play ninth-seeded Purdue on Sunday, with the winner most likely earning a chance to face defending NCAA tournament champion Tennessee in the second round.
For the Cowgirls, the tournament berth was another first in a long list of accomplishments.
Legerski has watched his team win more than 20 games each of the past three seasons, including 27 last year in a dramatic WNIT Championship run. This year's seniors are the only group of Wyoming basketball players to ever average 20+ wins per season throughout their four-year careers, and the Cowgirls' 12-4 mark in league play this year was the team's best since joining the MWC in 1999.
Still, a chance to compete in the Big Dance has always been the ultimate goal.
"This is what this group has been striving for," Legerski said. "We had a tremendous nonconference schedule. We got off to a great start. We had some bumps along the way, which every program does, but it was just an opportunity for us to try to put (together) the best situation for Wyoming, and this group was rewarded for it. Just a tremendous effort from my assistant coaches, and especially these players, to put us in this position."
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