The Aggie women’s and men’s basketball teams both have national tournament games today (March 17) — the women in the WNIT for the fourth time and the men in the NCAA’s Division I tournament for the first time.
The Aggie women are making their fifth postseason appearance in 10 years as a Division I program (having been in the Women's National Invitation Tournament in 2008, ’10 and ’12, and the NCAA in 2011) and are still seeking their first win.
The Aggies are 23-7 on the year and posted a 14-2 record in the Big West Conference, winning the conference title but falling in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Still, as the winner of the regular season, they advanced to the WNIT.
Today, Big West Coach of the Year Jennifer Gross leads the Aggies in their first-round game against Utah (16-14 and 5-13 in the difficult Pacific-12 Conference that qualified seven teams to the NCAA tournament and three more to the WNIT). The Utes enter the postseason on a two-game losing streak after falling to Washington in their regular season finale and dropping an 18-point decision to Arizona State in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.
The Aggie men are in Tulsa, Oklahoma — they’re flying on Ag Force One — for the first round of the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional, having won the right to be there by defeating North Carolina Central, 67-63, in a play-in game Wednesday at the University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio.
Watch parties here and abroad
Aggie fans gathered at more than 18 watch parties in the United States, London and Australia for the Wednesday game, and there will be parties today, too — including, on campus, a single watch party for the men’s and women’s games (they’ll overlap). See box above.
Beyond the watch parties, other people — lots and lots of people (see our “Box Score”) — are also talking about Aggie basketball and UC Davis.
The men’s team has been getting the lion’s share — or should it be Aggie’s share? — of the attention, in part because this is the team’s first time in “March Madness.” Also, we are one of this year’s potential “Cinderella” teams, we are “Davis vs. Goliath” (going up against Kansas in the first round).
Of course, UC Davis as a whole is benefiting from all this exposure — for example, when broadcasters talk on the air about our academic excellence and our student-athletes’ hitting the books, even while on the road in Dayton and Tulsa.
Thursday (March 16), the San Francisco Chronicle reported its "hot" stories and searches for the preceding week — and "UC Davis basketball" topped the search list for the Chronicle and SF Gate websites, beating out "John McCain wiretap."
From Tulsa World newspaper: “UC Davis Might Not Beat Kansas, but They Have Already Won Some Hearts”
1st time for everything
Every media outlet in the country has noted that never has a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed in this tournament.
But consider this: Exactly 11 years ago today (March 17) in Oakland, Aggies head coach Jim Les led No. 13 seed Bradley to victory over a No. 4 seed — and that No. 4 team happened to be … Kansas. (Les coached at his alma mater Bradley from 2002 to 2011.) After stunning Kansas in the opening round, 77-73, Bradley defeated No. 5 seed Pittsburgh, 72-66, before falling in the Sweet 16 to No. 1 seed Memphis, 80-64.
In this year’s tournament, the Aggies go in with a 22-12 record, against the Jayhawks with a record of 28-4 and No. 3 rankings in the AP and Coaches polls.
The Aggies, though, are playing some of their best basketball of the season — winning seven of their last eight games, including an overtime win against Cal State Fullerton in the Big West tournament semifinal March 10. Then, against North Central Carolina, the Aggies rallied in the second half and held off the Eagles down the stretch.
A different kind of bracket
Every tournament has a bracket, of course, but here’s one that takes a different approach — assessing the 68 universities in the NCAA field on five factors related to support for low-income students. You’ll be happy to know UC Davis defeated North Carolina Central, Kansas, Michigan, Purdue, Michigan State and North Carolina to get to the championship “game” (where we fell to Princeton).
ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom, assembled its “Nothin’ But Debt” bracket using federal data, including (with UC Davis numbers in parentheses):
- Number of Pell grantees (42.8 percent of undergraduates in 2014)
- How much low-income students paid to go to school, per year, on average ($10,492)
- Discount off total cost, for low-income families (68 percent)
- Median federal debt for Pell grantees ($13,167)
Men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics and swimmer Solie Laughlin — keep up to date on all our student-athletes in championship competitions this week.