Syracuse earns No. 7 seed in Oklahoma City region, will play Creighton in first round

first_img Published on March 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm Contact Kevin: kmprisei@syr.edu Unlike her senior teammates, Brittney Sykes hadn’t been through the NCAA tournament selection show experience of waiting to see if her team’s name would be called. Even if Syracuse didn’t make it this year, Sykes would still have three more chances to make it to the Big Dance.Still, that didn’t bring Sykes much comfort as the brackets were revealed.“I was as nervous as they were,” Sykes said. “I’m sitting next to Kayla (Alexander), each bracket that came up – Bridgeport and the Notre Dame bracket came up – and our name wasn’t called yet. I’m sitting there like, ‘Ugh, guys, I’m a little nervous.’”Sykes had nothing to worry about. Syracuse earned a No. 7 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament on Monday night. The Orange will face No. 10-seed Creighton in a first-round matchup Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn., at 11:20 a.m. The Syracuse-Creighton winner will face the winner of No. 2-seed Tennessee and No. 15-seed Oral Roberts on Monday.For Sykes and the rest of SU’s five-player freshman contingent, the tournament berth marked a quick reward for the beginning of a potentially prosperous Syracuse career. But the seniors – led by all-time leading scorer Alexander, along with career 1,000-point-scorers Carmen-Tyson Thomas and Elashier Hall – watched the show knowing this was their last chance to play in the NCAA tournament.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSo when Syracuse’s seeding was announced, head coach Quentin Hillsman couldn’t help but feel pride for his seniors.“It’s awesome for them,” Hillsman said. “What else can they ask for? Just for themselves, to go on to life after college. They’ll all have an opportunity to play if they would like to play, but just to have that experience now, to have been in the NCAA tournament, is critical for them.”The team watched in a film room on the second floor of the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. As the first three regions were revealed, Syracuse’s name was not called. After a 24-7 season and third-place finish in Big East regular-season play, the Orange was a supposed lock this year.Still, for the seniors who have waited four years for this moment, seeing Syracuse’s name flash on the screen elicited positive emotions. With an NCAA tournament matchup approaching, the week ahead is sure to induce a special mood, Hall said.“None of us players have ever been in this situation, so we don’t really know what to expect,” Hall said. “Definitely another level of intensity, another level of excitement and competitiveness. We’re all excited to be here, in this position.”Six straight conference wins pushed SU’s record to 22-3 midway through February, but Syracuse lost three straight, the last a 77-75 triple-overtime loss to Villanova. The setback caused Hillsman and players to express concern that the team’s tournament berth wasn’t yet sealed, even as a top-five team in a conference that was ultimately awarded eight bids on Monday.But after beating Louisville on Senior Night for SU’s first win over a ranked team, those worries were put to rest.“We’re really relaxed right now,” Hillsman said. “We knew we were in the tournament about a week and a half, two weeks ago, so I think the stress was kind of off. It was just about us getting through the Big East tournament, winning some games and being healthy.”Hillsman said the team will run a normal morning practice Tuesday before beginning adjustments Wednesday in anticipation of the 789-mile trip to Knoxville.For Tyson-Thomas, the mood at practice will certainly be altered by the week’s anticipation, despite having won 10 Women’s National Invitation Tournament games in her career.“Ironically, it’s a different atmosphere,” Tyson-Thomas said. “We’re still going to be in the Carmelo Anthony Center, but it’s a different atmosphere. You know now that we’re going to something bigger, we’re in something different. We’ve got to bring a whole different level of play to the game, so I feel as though everything’s going to be a little tricked up.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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