‘Cats earn bid in basketball tournament


Following a solid season in which the women’s basketball team compiled a 19-13 overall record (10-6 in the Big East), the NCAA selection committee awarded the Wildcats on Monday night with the No. 8 seed in the Raleigh Region of the Division I tournament. Villanova’s first round game will be against No. 9 seed Utah on Sunday in College Park, Md. The Utes, who won the Mountain West Conference championship this year, finished with an overall record of 22-9. The team that wins on Sunday will most likely earn a matchup with the region’s No. 1-seeded, Maryland, on Tuesday on the Terrapins’ home court.

The other top teams in the Raleigh region are the No. 2 seed Baylor and the No. 3 seed Louisville. Villanova has already faced Louisville once this year, and although they lost by 14 points, the game was tied at half time which shows that the Wildcats can compete with the highly ranked teams in this year’s tournament. Duke, Oklahoma and Connecticut were given the other No. 1 seeds, with the Huskies of UConn projected as the favorite to win it all.

This season had a lot of ups and downs for the Wildcats. After hovering around .500 for the first portion of the season (with a record of 10-8 as of Jan. 21), Villanova suddenly went on a seven-game winning-streak that culminated in a win over DePaul on Valentine’s Day. However, the team won only one of its last five regular season games, and dropped the final game of its season to South Florida on a buzzer beating layup. Still, a key win over Notre Dame at the beginning of the Wildcats’ seven-game winning-streak pushed them ahead of the Irish for fourth place in the Big East at the end of the year, earning them a first round bye in the conference tournament. Villanova then defeated Notre Dame again in the quarterfinal round of the Big East tournament, before falling to undefeated Connecticut in the semifinals.

Senior forward Laura Kurz, who along with junior guard Maria Getty started every game this season for the Wildcats, was a symbol of consistency for the team all year long. Kurz averaged 17.9 points per game, more than double that of any other Villanova player, and was the high scorer in 24 of the team’s 32 games. She also led the team in rebounds and blocks, while shooting 80 percent from the free throw line. Kurz was frustrated in the team’s most recent game, however, as she was held scoreless in the Wildcats’ blowout loss to UConn. Villanova will be hoping for her to return to the form she exemplified all season in time for the NCAA tournament, as her ability to put points on the board will be crucial in the matchup against Utah.

After Kurz, the Wildcats’ second and third highest scorers this season have been Getty (8.3 points per game) and senior guard Siobhan O’Connor (7.7 points per game).

Getty is also the only player on this year’s squad that has played more minutes than Kurz. O’Connor, meanwhile, led the team in assists and made an impressive 85.1 percent of her free throws this season. Her prowess at the line will certainly be a useful weapon if Villanova needs to preserve a lead in a tournament game.

The Wildcats’ tournament berth, their first since 2004, is sure to be an exciting culmination of the team’s season. Head Coach Harry Perretta, whose team’s success earned him a share of the Big East’s Coach of the Year award (along with Geno Auriemma of UConn), will lead his team into the tournament for the ninth time in his 31 years of coaching at Villanova.

For five Villanova players, including Kurz, the tournament marks the culmination of their collegiate careers. Look for Kurz and the other seniors to make the most of their final games as Wildcats, extending their run in the Big Dance as long as they possibly can.