LARAMIE — The Cowgirls are dancing for the second time in school history. And in 2021, it will be a Texas Two-Step.
The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team, fresh off the program’s first-ever Mountain West championship title, heard its name called in Monday’s NCAA Tournament Selection show. UW was given a No. 14 seed and will play third-seeded UCLA next Monday at 8 p.m. at the University of Texas' Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
The entire tournament will take place in the greater San Antonio region this year to accommodate COVID-19 protocols.
Last week’s magical Mountain West Tournament run was capped off by a 59-56 win over fourth-seeded Fresno State in the title bout; in the process, the seventh-seeded Cowgirls became the lowest seeded team to ever win the Mountain West Tournament title. It’s just the second conference championship, regular season or tournament, in program history. UW won the High Country Athletic Conference regular-season title in 1989-90.
The Cowgirls’ only other NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2008 as an at-large team.
“I’m just happy for them. I’m happy for this program. I’m happy for the state, you know, our fans” second-year UW coach Gerald Mattinson said. “They're so devoted and they care so much about, so deeply about this program and about the players that we have now, and the players that have gone through here.
“Even though I don’t look it, I’m ecstatic. That’s just who I am. I can’t tell you how I feel … being a Wyoming person and having a chance, an opportunity, to be a small part and represent this state and represent this program.”
While the initial plan was to hold a rally and live selection show at Arena-Auditorium Monday evening for the team and Cowgirls faithful, a historic storm put a damper on the festivities. The team got together shortly after practice, socially distanced on the court and watched the show on the arena's big screen, Mattinson said.
But you won’t hear a ton of complaints from Mattinson, who said his team might have been a little too excited when it heard its name called Monday evening. While he would have liked to have been with fans, it was a special moment for his team nonetheless.
“We were so excited seeing out name, we didn’t even know what day or time we play,” Mattinson said with a laugh. “We’re going to have to go back and figure that one out. That's kind of how excited they were, because we all started looking at each other and going, ‘Did we see what day we play or not?’”
The team will fly to Texas Tuesday morning, Mattinson said, and will not be able to practice until Thursday at the earliest due to COVID-19 protocols.
While Mattinson doesn’t have much intel on the Bruins (16-5), he is entirely aware that that they are a powerhouse that has seen a great deal of success in recent years.
UCLA, a member of the Pac-12 Conference, has played in the last five NCAA Tournaments.
“I know they're a very good team. I know they're very talented,” Mattinson said. “But to give you specifics, I have to look at them a little bit more on film.”