Assigned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Texas draws Bradley in the first round
After it moved the entire Division I tournament for the women's basketball season to the San Antonio area, the NCAA named the four regions of its bracket after local monuments.
One of the regions was named after the Alamo. The River Walk lent its name to a region. The Mercado and Hemisfair regions also have paths to the Final Four.
A native of Cibolo, Texas point guard Kyra Lambert is obviously familiar with those locations. But admittedly, she had only been to the Hemisfair once during her youth.
A graduate transfer, Lambert hopes to have more memories related to the Hemisfair in a few weeks. On Monday, Texas was given the sixth seed in the Hemisfair region. The Longhorns will open their postseason run against Bradley in a game that will be played at Texas State University on March 22.
"I plan to get really, really acclimated with the (Hemisfair) region," Lambert said. "We plan to go far and hopefully that's how I'll get to know it a little bit better."
The Longhorns' region is topped by South Carolina. Maryland, UCLA and West Virginia grabbed the region's second, third and fourth seeds. If victorious on Monday, Texas (18-9) would play either UCLA (16-5) or Wyoming (14-9) two days later.
This will be the first-ever meeting between Texas and Bradley. Bradley (17-11) won the title at a Missouri Valley Conference tournament that nationally-ranked Missouri State opted out of. In its championship game, Bradley beat Drake 78-70. In December, Texas recorded a 101-80 win over that same Drake program.
Texas coach Vic Schaefer said that video coordinator Dominique Dillingham immediately got to work on downloading film of Bradley's games after the matchup was announced. Schaefer noted that having a week to prepare was beneficial.
"We have a little bit of time," Schaefer said. "That will give us a chance to really make sure we cover all the bases and get our preparation on point."
ESPN had predicted that Texas would earn a seventh seed for the NCAA Tournament. Schaefer, though, recently argued that his team had played their way into a better seed.
A semifinalist at last week's Big 12 Tournament, Texas is looking to advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. The Longhorns last reached the Final Four in 2003.
"I feel like when it gets to this point in time, you've just got to play," said Charli Collier, Texas' all-conference forward. "You can't slip up. You have to play your best basketball in every single game because it's one and done. You lose, you're out."
Of the Longhorns on the roster, only Collier and junior Audrey Warren have ever played for Texas in the NCAA Tournament. Before a knee injury ended her sophomore season, Lambert started and played 10 minutes for Duke in its tournament opener in 2017.
Lambert, though, said her team is battle-tested. Seven Longhorns have played in at least 20 games this season.
"Our freshmen aren't freshmen, our sophomores aren't sophomores," Lambert said. "We're at the point of the season where everybody has experience. Everybody's stepped up in big ways."
Texas fans won't just have burnt-orange ties to the the NCAA Tournament. Legendary Longhorns Kamie Ethridge and Nell Fortner are the head coaches of Washington State and Georgia Tech teams that will open their tournament runs against South Florida and Stephen F. Austin. Texas transfers Sedona Prince (Oregon), Destiny Littleton (South Carolina), Chasity Patterson (Kentucky) and Rellah Boothe (Middle Tennessee State) will also appear in the tournament with their new teams.