DURHAM, N.C. – The 20th-ranked Duke women’s basketball team received its 24th overall NCAA Tournament selection Monday. The Blue Devils (22-8) were seeded No. 5 in the Albany Region and will play 12th-seeded and 23rd-ranked Belmont (31-3) in the first round Saturday, March 17 in Athens, Ga. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 and will tip at 11 a.m. The first and second rounds will be hosted by the University of Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum.
Belmont is making its fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and is coming off winning its third straight Ohio Valley Conference Championship with a 63-56 overtime win over UT Martin. On the season, the Bruins have registered a 31-3 record and are winners of 22 consecutive contests. Belmont has been led by Kylee Smith (18.6 points, 75 treys), Darby Maggard (16.7 points, 113 treys) and Sally McCabe (14.6 points, 7.8 rebounds). In his first year as the head coach of the Bruins, Bart Brooks has helped the Bruins to their third straight NCAA appearance.
Duke and Belmont will meet for the first time in school history. The Blue Devils own an all-time mark of 5-1 against teams from the Ohio Valley Conference, including 3-0 in NCAA Tournament play.
The winner of the Duke/Belmont game will advance to face the winner of the No. 4 seed Georgia vs. No. 13 seed Mercer game, which will tip at 1:30 p.m. The second round contest will be played Monday, March 19 in Athens, Ga. (time TBD).
The subregional in Athens, Ga., is the only group in the 2018 bracket that features all four ranked teams.
Georgia, who is ranked No. 18 nationally, earned its 33rd overall NCAA Tournament selection, after totaling a 25-6 overall and 12-4 mark in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs received an at-large bid and has totaled a 55-32 record in NCAA action. Georgia has been led on the year by Mackenzie Engram (12.9 points, 29 treys), Caliya Robinson (12.6 points, 7.7 rebounds), Que Morrison (8.7 points, 5.0 rebounds) and Taja Cole (8.1 points, 134 assists).
The 25th-ranked Mercer Bears collected a 30-2 overall record on the season and owns a 27-game winning streak entering NCAA play. The Bears recently won their first Southern Conference Championship with a 68-53 win over East Tennessee State University. Mercer has been led by Kahlia Lawrence (19.2 points, 35 treys), KeKe Calloway (16.9 points, 95 treys), Sydni Means (8.2 points, 257 assists) and Amanda Thompson (7.2 points, 6.6 rebounds). The Bears are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Blue Devils received an at-large invitation to the 2018 NCAA Tournament, after totaling a 22-8 overall and 11-5 league mark record on the season. Duke is currently ranked No. 20 nationally in the Associated Press ledger. In the latest NCAA RPI, the Blue Devils are No. 19 nationally, while boasting five wins against top 50 teams in RPI.
Head coach Joanne P. McCallie, who was the 2013, 2012 and 2010 ACC Coach of the Year, has guided the Blue Devils to another standout season in 2017-18. Fifth-year seniors Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell have guided Duke once again this season with a combined scoring average of 34.3 points a contest. The “Splash Sisters” are one of the most lethal three-point tandem’s in the nation combining to hit 132 treys.
Entering the 2018 NCAAs, the Blue Devils own an all-time record of 56-23 in NCAA Tournament play. Duke has advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 16 out of the last 20 years and reached the NCAA Final Four in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2006. The Blue Devils’ 56 NCAA Tournament wins currently ranks tied fifth, while their 70.9 winning percentage in NCAA action ranks tied sixth.
As a conference, the ACC received eight bids in 2018 -- Duke, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, NC State and Virginia. It is the fourth time in the last five years at least seven ACC teams have earned berths in the Big Dance. The eight bids by a conference were the most in the field with the SEC (7) just behind.
For tickets to the contests, head here to sit with the Blue Devil fans for only $16 each.
Duke Selection Show Quotes
Fifth-Year Senior Lexie Brown
On going back to the NCAA Tournament …
“We are very excited. This is something we’ve been looking forward to all year. The seed isn’t something we pay close attention to … we’re just excited to be a part of the tournament. It’s super exciting for the freshmen to be able to experience their first tournament and we’re happy to bring them to one.”
On playing in your home state …
“It’s really cool to be back in my home state. Athens isn’t very far from Atlanta so hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot of friends and family there. Hopefully we’ll be able to win the first round and get more fans to come out in the second round. If I’m not in my second home in Cameron [Indoor Stadium], it’s nice to go home to Georgia.”
On preparing for Belmont …
“My best friend plays for Belmont. Her name is Kylee [Smith] and she’s one of the seniors as well and one of their best players. From what she’s told me, they’re a very good shooting team and they have a lot of fun playing. They’ve dominated their league the last couple years and I’m excited to play against her. I haven’t played against her in college … we played AAU together and she’s been one of my best friends since middle school. I don’t know too much about Belmont but I do know a lot about her so hopefully that will be an advantage.”
On what to change heading into this road game …
“We need to come with a different mindset. We come into home games with more excitement since there is more energy here than some places on the road, but now there will be a lot of energy wherever we go in the tournament. We need to come out, be aggressive and play our game.”
Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie
On making the NCAA Tournament …
“We are very excited. It’s a special thing to be in a winner’s tournament like the NCAA Tournament. All the teams are super good … that’s a given … but what’s nice is we’re going back to Lexie’s [Brown] home state and Rebecca’s [Greenwell] family is close in Charlotte. Our fans have a chance to come to Athens to support our team. Many times they can send you to the West Coast or anywhere else, so we’re very excited and going to take it one day at a time as we prepare.”
On playing the first and second rounds in Athens …
“I didn’t care about seed or anything except Athens … I thought ‘let’s try to get there’. It gives everyone a chance to support our team. We want to play our best basketball of the year and it would be fun if we had some fans to witness that and be a part of that with us. It’s just a very exciting time for our team.”
On close road losses and how to play better on the road …
“We lost by six at Louisville. We’ve had great preparation for road games but we didn’t quite get over the top. I don’t think it was anything dramatic … it’s hard to play Louisville at Louisville. We’re prepared and we understand the focus. It’s time to turn the corner and have a really fun game that celebrates our talents, much like our last game against North Carolina at home. The way our team played together was so much fun and we want to try to create that on the road.”
On Belmont …
“I know Belmont is a great team that is well coached. They shoot the three a ton and I know I will watch a lot of film.”
On the opportunity to play UConn …
“It would be super because what you’re telling me is we won the first two games … on the road … in a magnificent fashion in Athens. I can’t think of anything better. That would be terrific.”