STATE COLLEGE —
Penn State is headed back to familiar territory for the NCAA tournament.
A No. 3 seed might have left the Lady Lions a little blue, though, despite a return trip to Baton Rouge, La., for the opening round of this year’s tourney.
Penn State will face 14th-seeded Cal Poly on Sunday, and could face LSU in the second round on the Tigers’ home floor for a second straight season. This time, LSU is a No. 6 seed.
There was no cheering among the players when the seeding was announced after they gathered in a Jordan Center banquet room in front of two big-screen televisions. Others in the room seemed indifferent.
Coach Coquese Washington focused on the positives. They did advance to the regional semifinals last season, after all, and played their first two games in Louisiana along the way.
“A No. 3 seed, a No. 2 seed – to me it doesn’t really make much of a difference ... both teams advance and play each other anyway,” Washington said. “We’ll take it. We’re happy to be playing. We’re happy we get an opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament.”
Point guard Alex Bentley was diplomatic.
“Seeding does matter,” she said. “But we’re happy with where we’re at ... We got the No. 3 (seed). That’s how the bracket works and we’re just going to prepare.”
Washington has the Penn State program back on solid footing following a second straight Big Ten regular-season title. It was placed in the Spokane, Wash., bracket, which also includes top-seeded Stanford, second-seeded California and fourth-seeded Georgia.
But the Lady Lions lost in the Big Ten tournament semifinals to Michigan State, and Washington said her team had to work on patience and poise following that defeat. Counting the tournament, they’ve lost two of their last four since clinching at least a share of the regular-season crown. So, perhaps that weighed on the tournament selection committee.
Washington also noted that there were many schools in the tourney who were hosting first-round games, which may have limited Penn State’s landing spots and sent them back to Louisiana.
So the Lady Lions didn’t seem overjoyed by their draw this year. But they weren’t complaining either.
“I was a little surprised,” Bentley said. “But like I said, we’ve been joking all year that we want to (go) back (to Baton Rouge) and we’re going back.
“So, we got what we wanted.”