Listed as one of the last four in the field on the latest bracketology update by ESPN.com, the Tulane women’s basketball team has no real way of knowing whether it will make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.
One thing is clear, though. The Green Wave (20-8, 11-6 American Athletic Conference) better win at Tulsa (15-12, 10-6) on Saturday in its regular season finale.
With a loss, the Wave would slide below Tulsa in the conference standings, plummet as far as the No. 6 seed in the AAC tournament and potentially fall off the bubble.
“It’s human nature to think about (the NCAA tournament), but at this point we just look one game at a time,” senior guard Jamie Kaplan said. “We know to get into the NCAA tournament, Tulsa has to be a win.”
When they met on Jan. 20 at Devlin Fieldhouse, Tulane mauled Tulsa 73-34, registering its most lopsided conference victory in 14 years. Unexpectedly, the Golden Hurricane responded by ripping off six in a row, including two against teams (Temple and East Carolina) that have beaten Tulane.
Nothing about the rematch figures to be anywhere near as comfortable for the Green Wave, which held Tulsa to 14-of-55 shooting overall and 1-of-20 from 3-point range in the first matchup.
“We’re expecting them to come out with a lot of intensity,” Kaplan said. “They even said in their press conference the last game that they were embarrassed by how they played, so I know we’re going to get their best game. Hopefully they’ll get our best game, too.”
Coach Lisa Stockton discounted any concern about overconfidence because too much is on the line for Kaplan and fellow senior starters Tiffany Dale and Danielle Blagg, who have never played in the NCAA tournament.
After three consecutive appearances in the WNIT, they want something bigger.
“I think the magnitude of this game overrides that (overconfidence),” Stockton said. “It would be a little scarier if it were the fourth game from the end of the year or something, but this is the last game of the regular season. We’re bigger and stronger than Tulsa, and we’ve done a good job of not losing to teams that we shouldn’t throughout the year. Hopefully that will carry through.”
Tulane is coming off a 94-47 home loss to No. 1-ranked, two-time defending NCAA tournament champion Connecticut that fit the profile of almost all of its defeats this year. The Wave fell to UConn (27-1) and South Florida (23-5) twice along with FSU (26-3) and Western Kentucky (24-4). Its worst losses were to East Carolina and Temple, which are tied with Tulsa at 10-6 in the AAC.
Tulane needs to avoid adding Tulsa to that list. The Golden Hurricane won at East Carolina four days after its debacle in New Orleans and beat Temple a week before the Owls upset the Wave in Philadelphia.
“Knowing that they’re coming off momentum just makes us go into practice prepared,” Dale said. “We have to take them seriously and respect that they’re going to come to prove that they can beat us. We’re going to make sure that we know our (scouting report) and get the win.”
Voting for Kaplan
Kaplan is one of 10 players up for the Senior CLASS Award, which honors NCAA Division I student-athletes who have made notable achievements in community, classroom, character and competition.
Fan voting, which opened Feb. 12 and will continue through March 23, will determine the winner along with media and coaches votes. The link to vote for Kaplan is http://www.seniorclassaward.com/athletes/jamie_kaplan/