Thirty wins, including 25 in a row to close out the regular season, only landed the University of Delaware women's basketball program a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Monday night, the Hens learned that they would face 11th-seeded West Virginia at the Carpenter Center on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. (on 1290 The Ticket and 94.7 WDSD). A win would earn UD a likely date with third-seeded North Carolina in the second round.
Many were disappointed by the draw. The scene inside the Embassy Suites, where UD and its fans watched the selection show together, went from euphoric at word that Delaware's name would pop up next, to silent when they saw the teams who would be coming.But there was one person who was ecstatic to see the draw. Akeema Richards came to UD from West Virginia. She is ready to face her former teammates.
"First thing that popped into my mind was actually 'wow what a coincidence,'" Richards said. "But I'm just going to think of it as a regular game. I'm not going to get too pumped up and I'm not going to think too much into the game because they're West Virginia. They could be North Carolina, UNC Wilmington or Asheville or whoever. We're just going to play the game and try to get a win on Sunday."
You would think that, desiring to get quick information in the moments after UD learned who its opponent would be, the coaching staff would have immediately turned to Richards, right?
"Surprisingly no," Richards said. "They went to Trumae Lucas because her former teammate (Christal Caldwell) played at Florida and then transferred to West Virginia."
An odd choice, but understandable Richards acknowledged.
"I think they didn't want to ask me cause they know how excited I'm gonna be and how emotional I'm going to get," the junior admitted.
Certainly that will change in the coming days. Tina Martin and her staff will likely pump Richards for every shred of information she has. We asked right away though.
"They have a few key players there," she noted. "Taylor Palmer is a great shooter and can really dish it out. Their key player, Asya Bussie, isn't playing, but she's great and a close friend of mine. They also have Ayana Dunning in the post. She's a good player who can go for a double-double easy. They're a good team and we're going to be focused and ready for them on Sunday.”
No one will be more raring to go than Richards. And the junior will be critical to Delaware’s hopes. Her athleticism is unmatched by any other UD guard. The Hens will need her quickness, particularly since a lack of backcourt speed cost Delaware so dearly in the second round of last year’s tourney.
Still, Richards’ biggest test will be not letting the situation get the better of her. Anyone can be tested by the weight of the NCAAs, but when you combine it with facing your former teammates, it’s asking an awful lot not to try too hard.
Richards must avoid this trap. If she does, the Hens will most likely reach the second round and get their shot at Carolina. That’s when it truly gets interesting.