Drake drawn into Iowa’s pod
DES MOINES — For the third time in the last three seasons, the Drake University is going dancing after being selected as the No. 10 seed in the Greensboro Region for the NCAA Division I Tournament.
Each of the last two seasons the Bulldogs have been a lock on Selection Monday after winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, but with a loss in the MVC tournament on Sunday to Missouri State it wasn’t a sure thing that Drake would be in the field. It’s the third time an MVC team has earned an at-large bid in the last 17 years, and Creighton’s at-large run in 2013 was the only win for the conference in the NCAA Tournament since 2003.
The nervous wait wasn’t as long as expected for the Bulldogs, after a mistake by ESPN revealed the bracket hours before the scheduled Selection Show at 6 p.m., but Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk said it was still a relief to hear her team’s name called.
“You can’t take it for granted, obviously it’s so much more amazing to win your tournament and you’re in and it’s magical, but to be able to understand that what we’ve been able to do all year to have the opportunity to get that at-large bid is something that we need to be really proud of and not ever take for granted,” Baranczyk said after addressing the crowd at the team’s Selection Show watch party in the courtside club at the Knapp Center on Monday.
Usually during the selection show, Baranczyk said she is so caught up in the moment that she doesn’t get to see the reactions from her players. That wasn’t the case on Monday because of the early bracket release, but Baranczyk said she enjoyed telling her girls individually about their fates.
“It was neat for me and my staff to see each of their reactions individually,” she said. “Most of the time you watch it as an entire program so for it to be out the way it was kind of made it really neat too to see their faces and be able to have their initial reaction. I am just really excited for us and our team to get back on the floor.”
When the Bulldogs take the floor again they will be doing so against seventh-seeded Missouri out of the Southeastern Conference in Iowa City on Friday at 3 p.m. Drake (27-6) and the Tigers (23-10) have faced off four times in their history, with the Bulldogs owning a 3-1 series advantage.
They had one like opponent this season in Missouri State, who Missouri beat, 65-61, in the second game of the season. Drake was 1-2 against the Bears, with the most recent loss coming in the MVC tournament finale on Sunday.
Baranczyk said she’s not completely familiar with the Tigers, but she does know them by reputation.
“I have no idea yet, I know that [Missouri head coach] Robin Pingeton does an incredible job,” she said. “I’ve known her for a long time and I have respect for her and her program and they’ve got some great players. A lot of our players are familiar with a lot of their players, so that’s something that’s kind of unique. For us, we have to figure them out and even more than that we have to bounce back from yesterday. That’s what we are going to focus on, being our best and going from there.”
The Bulldogs don’t have to travel far, with their game taking place at Carver-Hawkeye arena where second-seeded Iowa is hosting the first two rounds. Not only will the Drake women have a friendly crowd, they will also have the experience of having played in the tournament the last two years.
Baranczyk said she hopes those past experiences will help her team along, but right now she is just ready to get on the court and wash the taste of the loss to Missouri State on Sunday out of their mouths.
“I am just excited that our team is going to be ready to go,” she said. “I know that we are going to be ready to go, and they are too. That’s the beautiful part of March basketball.”
The winner of the Drake-Missouri matchup will move on to face the winner of Iowa-Mercer on Sunday in Iowa City. Friday’s meeting between the Bulldogs and Tigers will be broadcast on ESPN2.