FGCU women bring distinctive style to Virginia Tech matchup

Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks has had a few days to come to grips with his team’s next challenge.

“I get high anxiety when we play against teams who shoot a lot of 3s,” he said. ”So obviously it has been a stressful week knowing that you’re playing against a team that shoots the absolute most in the country.”

The fifth-seeded Hokies take on 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast on Friday in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament. That’s the first of two games in College Park. Fourth-seeded Maryland meets 13th-seeded Delaware afterward.

FGCU (29-2) brings a distinctive style into this tournament, with nobody taller than 6-foot-1. Every player on the roster is listed as a guard — and only Maddie Antenucci is listed as a “guard/forward” on the team’s website. The Eagles lead the nation in 3-point attempts with 1,120 — second-place New Mexico is 200 behind.

Coach Karl Smesko “doesn’t like us shooting midranges,” guard Kierstan Bell said. “And if you do, you’ll be right on the bench with him.”

Virginia Tech (23-9) takes plenty of 3s as well, although its leading scorer, 6-foot-6 Elizabeth Kitley, could present a major problem for FGCU. She is a third-team All-American.

But the Eagles will be motivated.

“When we were watching the selection show, we were wondering where we were at, and then when they announced that we were a 12 seed, we were all like, ‘OK, this is what they want to do to us,’” Bell said. “So we’re going to come out and show why we are better than a 12 seed.”

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FGCU’s seeding was certainly curious for a team that was ranked in the Top 25 earlier this week. Virginia Tech is 16th in the AP poll — so perhaps the Hokies feel underseeded too.

“I would love to go behind the scenes to try to figure out how they came up with the fact that Florida Gulf Coast is a 12 seed. They’re not,” Brooks said. “I don’t understand how you can be ranked in both polls — as a matter of fact, they’re ranked ahead of us in one poll and they’re a 12 seed.”

Maryland started the season ranked No. 4 in the country, and now the Terps (21-8) are seeded fourth in their region, but the Terps haven’t played since losing in the Big Ten Tournament on March 4, so they’ve had time to refresh.

Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu have each missed a decent amount of time for the Terps this season.

“We’re finally at the healthiest point that we’ve been with our team all season,” coach Brenda Frese said. “So we’re looking forward to having some of our best basketball ahead, which we’re going to need against a really good Delaware team.”

The Blue Hens (24-7) are led by 5-foot-10 Jasmine Dickey, who has already announced she’s entering this year’s WNBA draft.

“We got a CAA championship, so that’s always good, and we still got more basketball to play,” Dickey said. “Even though it’s coming to an end, we still play Friday, and we’re hoping to survive and advance, and that’s the main focus right now.”

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A NEW WAY?

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Smesko thinks maybe the seeding process for the NCAA Tournament should be different.

“I know they have a bunch of factors, 14 or something factors that they figure in to put these seeds together. But I’m not sure anybody knows exactly which one outweighs another one and at which times they use which one,” the FGCU coach said. “So you’re kind of at the mercy of this committee. Hopefully we can get to the point where they can just have an algorithm that’s good enough that it could pick the best teams and it could seed the tournament, and I think that would be maybe a more fair situation for everybody.

“But for us, we’re here. We get to play. We get to play a great opponent, and we’re excited about it.”

BACK HOME

Delaware coach Natasha Adair is a native of the Washington, D.C. area and coached at Georgetown before taking over the Delaware program. Several Delaware players are also from this area.

“It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m sure it will tomorrow when we see all of our family and friends,” she said. “It’s great being home, but it’s also great being a Blue Hen, because we’re going to have fans that travel and come support us.”

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Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

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More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25


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