Women’s basketball chosen as No. 3 seed in Hemisfair region for NCAA tournament
With No. 9 UCLA women’s basketball’s selection as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, coach Cori Close has guided her team to five straight NCAA tournament selections. Close and the Bruins have made it past the first weekend in each of the past four tournaments. (Daily Bruin file photo)
By Jon Christon
March 15, 2021 4:48 p.m.
This post was updated March 15 at 6:56 p.m.
After nearly a two-year break, the Bruins are dancing once again.
No. 9 UCLA women’s basketball (16-5, 12-4 Pac-12) was selected as a No. 3 seed in the Hemisfair region of the 2021 NCAA tournament. The Bruins will begin their run on March 22 against No. 14-seeded Wyoming (14-9, 8-8 Mountain West), with No. 1-seeded South Carolina (22-4, 14-2 SEC) and No. 2-seeded Maryland (24-2, 17-1 Big Ten) the only two teams in the region ranked above them.
Should UCLA win its first-round matchup, it will go on to face the winner of No. 6-seeded Texas and No. 11-seeded Bradley in the round of 32. If the rest of the region is chalk, the Bruins would face No. 2-seeded Maryland in the tournament for the second consecutive season, this time in the Sweet 16.
Coach Cori Close said she thinks her team has a chance to advance far given the parity within the tournament.
“This is one of the most wide open brackets that I’ve ever seen in women’s basketball,” Close said. “(I’m) just thrilled to have a chance to be a part of it. I’m just really humbled and grateful for all the people – everyone from the medical teams, to the sacrifices of the student-athletes, to the Pac-12 and the conferences, to the NCAA – for figuring out how we’re going to put on an event for these young women.”
UCLA marks one of six Pac-12 teams in the field of 64. No. 2 Stanford – the team UCLA lost to in the Pac-12 tournament championship game – is one of four No. 1 seeds, with No. 3-seeded Arizona, No. 6-seeded Oregon, No. 8-seeded Oregon State and No. 9-seeded Washington State all representing the conference as well.
Aside from last year’s tournament cancellation, this year also marks the fifth straight year UCLA has been selected as a tournament team, with the Bruins advancing past the first weekend in each of the past four tournaments. The last time UCLA was left waiting on Selection Monday, it went on to win the 2015 National Invitation Tournament.
Sophomore guard Charisma Osborne – who has never participated in an NCAA tournament in her career – said she was excited to see her team’s name pop up on the screen.
“It’s super exciting – I was sitting here watching it with (senior forward Michaela Onyenwere) and then I was on FaceTime with (sophomore guard Camryn Brown),” Osborne said. “But it was definitely super exciting just to see our names up there and see who we’re going to play and just see where other teams are at.”
All games in this year’s tournament will be held in the San Antonio, Texas, area, with the Final Four and championship games held in the Alamodome on April 2 and April 4, respectively.
For redshirt senior guard and Plano, Texas, native Natalie Chou, the all-Texas tournament will be a homecoming.
“I’m just so excited that I can play on this big stage with my girls with this team,” Chou said. “I’m really excited. My mom will be able to watch in person, I think, so it will be great to see her in the stands again.”
March 7 was the last time UCLA took to the court, and the 14 days between games will be the Bruins’ longest break all season.
UCLA and Wyoming will tip off their first round matchup on March 22 at 7 p.m. on ESPN.