Lady Hens to face Arkansas Little Rock
Published: Monday, March 12, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 02:03
One day removed from their first-ever CAA title, the Hens gathered in the Trabant University Center with season ticket holders and cockpit members to see where they would be placed in the NCAA Tournament.
They waited as the first bracket region was announced and their name was not called. They weren't in the second region either, or the third.
Delaware was assured a spot in the field of 64 by virtue of its conference championship, but that didn't save the Hens from the stress of wondering what seed they would get and where they would be placed. Finally, as one of the last teams revealed, they learned their fate.
The Hens earned a No. 3 seed and will play Arkansas Little Rock in its hometown Sunday at 5:20 p.m. If they advance, they will play the winner of the No. 6 seed Nebraska vs. No. 11 seed Kansas matchup on Tuesday night.
Before the crowd dispersed from the multipurpose room in Trabant, head coach Tina Martin's staff had already gone back to its offices to begin watching film on Arkansas Little Rock. Martin said she will watch at least one game tonight.
"It's an exciting time, it's a fun time," Martin said. "I probably won't get too much sleep tonight, but who needs sleep when it's March Madness?"
The Hens' are in the Des Moines region of the 64-team tournament. The No. 1 seed in their bracket is undefeated and top-ranked Baylor. Seeded second is Tennessee, one of the most storied programs in women's basketball history.
Martin is not letting her team get distracted by the thought of facing those teams in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. As usual, it's one game at a time.
"It's one and done," she said. "We will put our total focus on Arkansas Little Rock."
As the favored seed, Delaware finds itself in the unusual position of playing a true road game in the first round. The Hens aren't concerned however.
"I think we'll be OK," star forward Elena Delle Donne said. "We've played a lot of away games this season, so we're ready to go."
Delle Donne to have the spotlight
Delaware received plenty of air time on ESPN2 and ESPNU during the selection show. The network had a live camera in the room and did interviews with Martin and Delle Donne.
The crew in studio for ESPN spent some time breaking down Delaware, with most of its focus on Delle Donne. Analyst Jemelle Hill compared Delle Donne's dominance to that of NBA players LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Delle Donne, seated in the front row, cracked a smile at these comparisons.
"Coming from someone like her is amazing and it means a lot," she said. "The smile was me soaking it in and enjoying it."
Delle Donne's story has been broadcasted across multiple media outlets. She has been featured on Outside the Lines, in Sports Illustrated and USA Today.
But while the nation has read about her, not many people outside the state of Delaware have seen her play.
"We're thrilled that people can finally see us," Delle Donne said. "It's not like we're hiding. We want people to see us and see the talent that we have."
Martin thinks Delle Donne will be as good as advertised to the general public.
"I think they've heard she has guard skills," she said. "But I don't think they realize how good her guard skills are."
Miller returns a champion
Last season at the CAA championships, all Kayla Miller could do was watch. The junior point guard had to use a medical redshirt due to recovering from back surgery.
When Delaware lost to James Madison in the final last year, Miller walked out the gym with her team and made a promise to herself.
"When I left this gym last year, I was like, we're not leaving here next year empty handed—we are coming out with a championship," Miller said. "I'm so happy and thrilled that we won. It's really indescribable how I think any of us feel right now, but it's really well-deserved."
The long road to recovery included many extra workouts and extra therapy sessions.
"It was really tough," Miller said of fighting back. "But, I had this championship in mind and that was my goal. When you have like something in your head like that, that keeps you motivated to do something."
Miller is the distributor on the squad. She is one of the first guards off the bench and Martin has credited her with embracing her role.
She sticks to her role as a pass-first point guard, which has led to teams backing off her defensively. It leaves her open for jumpers from long range, which she usually passes up to continue running the offense, much to some fans' chagrin.
"I don't shoot the ball," Miller said. "Everybody yells at me. All the fans are like ‘Just shoot the ball, shoot the ball,' and I'm like, ‘No you never know,' I don't need to shoot the ball right now. I mean, there are so many scorers on this team. I know my role as a leader on the floor, get us in our sets and play good defense."