March 7, 2002
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University women's basketball team will gather together on Sunday to watch the NCAA Selection Show and see if they've been selected as one of 64 teams to go to the Big Dance. The show will be broadcast nationally at 2 p.m. PST on ESPN.
Santa Clara advanced to the championship game of the West Coast Conference Tournament last weekend, taking Pepperdine down to the wire. The Broncos tied for second during the regular season of league play in a conference that is ranked seventh best in the nation by CollegeRPI.com. That listing makes the WCC the best league on the West Coast, ahead of the Pac-10 (9) and the WAC (11).
"I thought it was a great game, either team could've won this game," Pepperdine head coach Mark Trakh said after the Championship. "I told Chris and we both agreed that this game was just for the West Coast Conference Championship -I really believe we're both in (the NCAA Tournament)."
The Broncos, who posted their fifth-straight 20-win season with a victory over San Diego to open the tournament, are currently 21-9 overall and hold a 38 RPI. Santa Clara has defeated such non-league, nationally-ranked opponents as then-No. 19 Washington and then-25th-ranked Utah, as well as 2002 Atlantic-10 Conference Champion Temple.
Additionally, Santa Clara has been hot late in the season. The Broncos averaged 82 points-per game at the WCC Tournament, shooting 47 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point range. Senior guard Becki Ashbaugh averaged 9.0 assists per game in February, a mark that would lead the country nationally if sustained over the season. Her season average of 7.3 currently ranks her sixth best in the NCAA. Backcourt teammate Caroline Gruening is also ranked sixth best in the county, in three-point field goal percentage, at 45.9 percent. She set a league tournament record last weekend after knocking down 12 baskets from long range.
"There are some high-caliber players and good coaching all up and down the league," Santa Clara head coach Chris Denker said after the WCC Championship. "This is a good conference and we deserve a couple of teams in the tournament. We're ready to keep playing, we're just hitting our stride."
The NCAA Tournament begins first and second round action on Friday, March 15. The Tournament continues through the Regionals, held March 23 and 25 and then on to the Final Four, hosted this year by UT San Antonio at the Alamodome on March 29 and 31. The semifinal games begin March 29, with the championship slated for a 5:30 p.m. start on March 31. The title contest will air live on ESPN.