By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Jay Wright’s squad is not the only team on the Main Line getting ready to open play in the NCAA Tournament. The Villanova women’s basketball team is in the tourney for the first time since 2009 and they will open play on Sunday in Stanford, California, with a first-round match-up against Michigan.
21-10 Villanova tied for sixth in the Big East during the regular season with a 9-7 mark. They lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament to Syracuse, so they had to play the waiting game on Selection Monday to see if they earned an at-large bid.
“It was very exciting,” Villanova head coach Harry Perretta tells KYW Newsradio. “It was good that it came up early, so there was no anxiety.”
Perretta thinks the experience his team got battling through a season in the Big East will really help them here in the tournament.
“Because not only do you see extremely talented teams in the Big East, you also see a lot of styles of play,” Perretta says. “So it prepares you from both aspects, to go up against athleticism, go up against talent and go up against different styles of basketball.”
This Villanova team is led by senior forward Laura Sweeney. The 6’2″ native of Marlton, New Jersey, leads the Wildcats in scoring (13.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) and she says this tournament berth extends a special season.
“This has always been a goal of ours,” Sweeney tells KYW Newsradio. “I’m with a really tight group of girls. We’ve got great chemistry on the team and we’re kind of older this year. We’ve got a bunch of seniors, girls that have played with each other and have gotten a lot of time. So this year it was always kind of the elephant in the room. After every win in the beginning, we were like, ‘Okay, we can really do this.'”
Michigan’s resume is very similar to Villanova’s. They also bring a 21-10 record into the tournament, they went 9-7 in the Big Ten and they were also eliminated in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament.
“They play a perimeter type game, they move without the ball,” Perretta says. “They pass. It’s a very, very similar team to ourselves. They’re also a very experienced team, they have five seniors on the team. So they’ll be very difficult to beat.”
As for keys, as always with this Villanova team, they’ll need to hit from long-range.
“That’s what we do,” Perretta says. “We try to generate threes, we try to make threes. That’s what we try to do and we’ll try to do the same thing in this game and see if we can get it done.”
The winner of Villanova and Michigan faces the winner of Stanford and Tulsa on Tuesday.
Sunday’s game will tip-off at 7:30pm.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.