The Montana women’s basketball team received a No. 16 seed and will face No. 1 Notre Dame Friday night at South Bend, Ind., in the opening round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. Bracket
The Lady Griz (24-8), tournament champions of the Big Sky Conference, and Fighting Irish (31-2), tournament champions of the ACC, will tip off at 5:30 p.m. (MT) at UND’s Purcell Pavilion. The game will be aired regionally on ESPN2.
No. 8 Minnesota (23-9) and No. 9 DePaul (26-7) also are playing at the four-team site.
It’s Montana’s 21st trip to the NCAA tournament and just its second as a No. 16 seed. The Lady Griz faced No. 1 Georgia on the Lady Bulldogs’ home court at the 2000 tournament as a No. 16 seed and fell 74-46.
The top 16 teams in the field are hosting first- and second-round games in the NCAA’s new tournament model, which was implemented to improve attendance, and despite Oregon State, California, Stanford and Arizona State playing at home, Montana was unexpectedly sent out of the West.
“It was certainly a surprise,” said Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig. “But we were going to be playing somebody really good at their place no matter what. That just means a great atmosphere, and that’s what the tournament should be all about.
“We’ve never played at Notre Dame, so we’re looking forward to it. I look at it as a great opportunity to go show what we can do.”
Notre Dame has won 17 straight games, including victories over Miami, Duke and Florida State at Greensboro, N.C., to win the ACC tournament. The Fighting Irish haven’t lost since Jan. 8 at Miami. Their only other loss this season came at home to Connecticut, the tournament’s top overall seed.
“Obviously they are really, really good. They are one of the teams that have a chance to win the national championship. That’s why they’re a No. 1 seed,” said Selvig.
“You’ve got to believe, and our kids do. Anytime you’re a lower seed going to somebody’s place, it’s going to take a fantastic effort, so that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Notre Dame is playing in its 20th consecutive NCAA tournament, its 22nd overall, all under 28th-year coach Muffet McGraw, who enters the tournament with a record at UND of 694-220.
The Fighting Irish won a national championship in 2001 and have finished runner-up three of the last four seasons, falling in the title game to Texas A&M in 2011, Baylor in 2012 and Connecticut last year.
Montana and Notre Dame have met just once before. The Lady Griz defeated the Irish 50-48 at Washington’s tournament in 1986-87. McGraw took over at Notre Dame the following season.
— Montana Sports Information