- This will be the third straight year that Texas has hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
- The Longhorns were placed in the Kansas City regional along with No. 1 seed Mississippi State.
- Texas faces 15th-seeded Maine in Saturday's first round; Arizona State and Nebraska also will open in Austin.
Texas will be a No. 2 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, opening at home for the first two rounds and placed in the Kansas City regional along with top-seeded Mississippi State.
But Longhorns guards Ariel Atkins and Lashann Higgs said they cannot allow themselves to look too far ahead in the bracket.
“We have to play every game like it’s our last game,” Higgs said. “If you do that, you never know where it can take you.”
Texas (26-6), ranked No. 8 in the country, will open with 15th-seeded Maine on Saturday evening. The Black Bears (23-9) won the America East tournament and haven’t lost since Feb. 11, a six-game win streak. They’re 3-3 against ranked teams this season.
Also coming to the Erwin Center are seventh-seeded Arizona State and 10th-seeded Nebraska.
Mississippi State is the No. 1 seed in the Kansas City regional.
Atkins, a senior, called it “a blessing” that she’ll play in the tournament for the fourth straight year. When pressed on “how much damage” the Longhorns can do in the tournament, she took a one-game-at-a-time approach.
“All I saw was Maine,” Atkins said, speaking about seeing the matchup on the jumbo screen.
The Longhorns, their coaches and roughly 300 fans attending a watch party erupted in joy when “Texas” came across the TV screen. After the show, head coach Karen Aston said one of her biggest thrills as a coach was last year’s tournament victory over North Carolina State in the second round.
The national No. 1 seeds are UConn, Mississippi State, Louisville and Notre Dame.
Perhaps the most thrilled team in the field was Oklahoma, which danced on a tight wire but made the tournament as a No. 10 seed in the Spokane regional. The Sooners will play No. 5 DePaul in the opener. Oklahoma State also made the tournament from the Big 12.
Aston said she was happy those Big 12 schools made the field, saying they were helped by their strength of schedules and “overall body of work.”
There was an audible roar when ESPN announced that South Carolina was the No. 2 seed in the Albany Regional. With UConn as the No. 1 seed in that region, the Longhorns avoided the nation’s top-ranked team. The Huskies are the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed.
This will be the third straight year the Longhorns play host to the first and second rounds. In 2016 the Longhorns defeated Missouri to reach the Sweet 16 and beat North Carolina State last year to advance.
This is the 19th time the Longhorns have played host to the tournament since 1983.
The NCAA Tournament represents the final games for three UT seniors — Brooke McCarty, Atkins and Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau. Caron-Goudreau has missed the last eight games with an injured wrist. Her status for the tournament remains day-to-day, according to UT officials.
The Final Four will be March 30 and April 1 in Columbus, Ohio.
First, second rounds in Austin
Saturday and Monday, Erwin Center
Saturday’s first round: 7-Arizona State vs. 10-Nebraska, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2; 2-Texas vs. 15-Maine, 5 p.m., ESPN2, 105.3
Monday’s second round: Saturday’s winners, time/TV TBA