Atlantic Coast Conference Showcases Six In 2011 NCAA Tournament

March 14, 2011

GREENSBORO, N.C. – For the ninth straight year, the Atlantic Coast Conference will be represented by at least six teams in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Field of 64. The ACC is one of only two leagues (Big East) to place six or more teams in the 2011 Big Dance, while all six ACC teams selected were tabbed top five seeds – a first since 1996.

Duke, which won the school’s seventh ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship and its second-consecutive, finished 29-3 and earned a No. 2 seed in the Philadelphia region of the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Duke enters the postseason with a six-game win streak. Senior first-team All-ACC guard and All-America candidate Jasmine Thomas, who was named the 2011 ACC Tournament MVP, will guide Duke to its league-best 17th-straight NCAA Tournament and 18th overall. The Blue Devils, which shared a piece of this year’s ACC regular-season crown after tabbing a 12-2 mark, own an all-time record of 43-17 in the NCAA Tournament, including a 14-0 record at home in NCAA action. Duke has advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 12 of the last 13 years.

Joining the Blue Devils among the top three seeds selected for this year’s NCAA Tournament are the Florida State Seminoles, which own a 23-7 overall record and an 11-3 mark in ACC action, and the Miami Hurricanes, which advanced to the WNIT Championship game last year. FSU joined Duke as two of the league’s four teams (Maryland and North Carolina) to be ranked in each Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN.com Top 25 poll this season. Joining Duke, Florida State and Miami as ACC representatives in the upcoming NCAA Tournament are Georgia Tech, Maryland, and North Carolina.

The Blue Devils earned a No. 2 seed and will play host to one of the first and second rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Duke will face No. 15 seed Tennessee-Martin, the Ohio Valley Conference automatic qualifier, in the comfortable confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium, with the winner advancing to face either No. 7 seed Iowa State or No. 10 seed Marist. The Blue Devils enjoyed a flawless 15-0 record at home this season.

In the Dallas region, the Florida State Seminoles make their seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under 14th-year head coach Sue Semrau and 11th overall. FSU is led by first-team All-ACC junior forward Cierra Bravard and third-team All-ACC senior guard Courtney Ward. As a No. 3 seed, FSU will travel to Auburn, Ala., to take on No. 14 seed Samford, the Southern Conference automatic qualifier. The winner of this first-round contest will face either No. 6 seed Georgia or No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee State. The Noles own an 11-10 record in NCAA Tournament play and have advanced to the Sweet 16 round twice and earned the program’s first-ever Elite Eight showing last.

Entering the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004 is Miami, which earned a No. 3 seed and will face No. 14 seeded Gardner-Webb in Charlottesville, Va. The 2010-11 Hurricanes shared a piece of this year’s ACC regular-season crown with Duke after recording a 12-2 league mark – completing the ultimate turnaround from one year ago. Head coach Katie Meier, in just her sixth season at UM, collected 2011 ACC Coach of the Year honors and led her squad to an impressive 27-4 overall mark this season. The Canes, which boast no seniors on their roster, are led by the junior guard duo of Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams. Both All-ACC first-teamers, Johnson was named this year’s ACC Player of the Year. Miami, which is 2-6 in NCAA Tournament, had its longest run in the NCAA Big Dance in 1991-92 after drawing the No. 2 seed in the East Regional behind a 29-1 record and advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to Vanderbilt – a game also played in Charlottesville, Va.

Maryland returns to the NCAA Tournament for the program’s 19th all-time appearance after being selected as the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Big Dance. The Terrapins, which won the 2006 National Championship, finished this season with a 23-7 record, including a 9-5 ACC mark. Maryland owns a 27-17 NCAA Tournament record and will play host to No. 13 seeded St. Francis (PA), the Northeast Conference’s automatic qualifier, in first-round action. With the chance of advancing to play No. 5 seeded Georgetown or No. 12 seeded Princeton in second round action, Maryland hopes to earn the team’s ninth Sweet 16 appearance, eighth Elite Eight showing, and fourth Final Four berth.

Georgia Tech, which won 23 games for the second-consecutive season, a mark that again ties the school record for wins in a regular season, claimed a No. 5 seed in the Dayton region. The Yellow Jackets posted their fifth straight 20-win season en route to making their fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and seventh overall. Georgia Tech, which finished the season with a 23-10 overall record and went 9-5 in league play, is guided by senior guard/forward Alex Montgomery and freshman guard Tyaunna Marshall. The Yellow Jackets own a 2-6 mark in NCAA Tournament history and will look to improve those marks as the team travels to Columbus, Ohio, to face No. 12 seed Bowling Green, the Mid-American Conference’s automatic qualifier. The winner will advance to face No. 4 seed Ohio State or No. 13 seed UCF.

North Carolina was named a No. 5 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and will participate in the Big Dance for a league-best 23rd time in program history. Carolina this season welcomed the return of senior forward Jessica Breland, who took a medical redshirt last season to battle Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Tar Heels, which finished the regular season with a 26-8 mark, including a 3-1 run to the 2011 ACC Tournament final, are led by All-ACC second-teamer Italee Lucas. Entering the postseason with a 39-21 all-time NCAA Tournament record, UNC will face No. 12 seed Fresno State, the Western Athletic Conference’s automatic qualifier, in the Spokane region. The winner will square off against No. 4 seed Kentucky or No. 13 seed Hampton in second-round action in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Tar Heels have advanced to the Sweet 16 Round 14 times and have advanced to the Final Four three times.

The only two other times all ACC teams chosen to participate in the NCAA Tournament were selected as top five seeds was 1982 and 1996. In 1982, three ACC teams earned postseason NCAA bids with Maryland, NC State and Clemson earning seeds No. 2, 3 and 5, respectively. In 1996, four ACC teams earned bids with Clemson, Virginia, Duke and NC State earning seeding No. 3, 3, 4 and 5, respectively. Never before has the ACC had six teams selected all earning top five seeding recognition.

First- and second-round games will be played at 16 sites Saturday, March 19 through Tuesday, March 22. The 16 second-round winners will compete at the four regional sites. The Dayton Regional (University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio) and the Spokane Regional (Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Washington) will be played Saturday, March 26 and Monday, March 28, while the Dallas Regional (American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas) and the Philadelphia Regional (The Liacouras Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) will be held Sunday, March 27 and Tuesday, March 29. The four regional winners will advance to the 2011 NCAA® Women’s Final Four®, April 3 and 5, at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.