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Gauchos to Dance with Virginia in NCAA’s 1st Round

UCSB draws No. 13 seed and appearance in Norfolk, Va., subregional.


After winning a 12th Big West Conference Tournament title last week, UCSB’s women’s basketball team was awarded a No. 13 seed in the 2008 NCAA Tournament field of 64 on Monday. The Gauchos, making their first Big Dance appearance since 2005, will battle fourth-seed Virginia at 6:30 p.m. PDT Sunday in Norfolk, Va.

“I’m very pleased with our seed and I’m excited to play a very, very good Virginia team,” head coach Mark French said. “We are definitely looking forward to representing the West Coast well in Norfolk.”

Fifth-seeded Old Dominion, the subregional host, will face No. 12 Liberty in the other first-round game Sunday. The winners will meet March 25 with a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 at stake. The regional semifinals will be held April 1 in Greensboro, N.C.

Sunday’s other opening-round contests in Norfolk are top-seeded North Carolina against No. 16 Bucknell and No. 8 Georgia vs. No. 9 Iowa.

UCSB (23-7) enters NCAA Tournament play after claiming the Big West’s automatic bid for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons with a 75-59 victory over UC Davis in the conference final Saturday. Winners of 19 of their last 20 games, the Gauchos are 7-11 in 11 previous appearances in the Big Dance, including the program’s first-ever Sweet 16 berth in 2004. UCSB lost to Notre Dame in its last NCAA appearance in 2005.

The No. 13 seed has not been a lucky one for UCSB, which earned the draw in 1997 and 2005 and lost both times.

Virginia (23-9) is an at-large selection out of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Cavaliers, who are ranked 23rd in the USA Today/ESPN Top-25 Coaches’ Poll, went 10-4 in ACC play and tied for third place with Duke.

“(Head coach) Debbie Ryan has done some excellent things at Virginia over the years and it’s always nice to coach against some of leading coaches in the women’s game,” French said. “Sunday’s game will be a great challenge for us.”

Old Dominion (29-4) won its 17th consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Tournament title. Liberty (28-3) also was an automatic qualifier after its 11th Big South Conference Tournament championship.

UCSB has split two previous meetings with UVA, defeating the Cavaliers in the Thunderdome in 2000 before losing in Charlottesville in 2001. The Gauchos have never played Liberty or Old Dominion.

UCSB’s NCAA Tournament games will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM and KCSB 91.9 FM or online at www.kcsb.org. ESPN2 will televise the subregional games.

Ticket prices for Sunday’s first round are $25, which includes admission to both games. Tickets will be available at 9 a.m. Tuesday by calling the UCSB Athletic Ticket Office at 805.893.8272.

Ryan Hall is UCSB‘s assistant media relations director.

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