BLACKSBURG — The Virginia Tech women's basketball team has landed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA field was announced Sunday night in a show on ESPN. The Hokies (27-4) watched the show while seated on the Tech bench at Cassell Coliseum, with fans looking on from the stands behind them.
The players jumped from their seats and roared when Tech was announced as a No. 1 seed, as did their fans. Forward Taylor Soule did a little dance.
"It's really cool," Tech center Elizabeth Kitley said later. "To be acknowledged as a No. 1 seed is awesome because even at the start of this year, I don't think any of us ever really thought to set that as a goal. It was never something that we really thought about. … It just shows the growth of the program."
This is the first time the Hokies have been a No. 1 seed. The previous best seed in Tech history was the No. 4 seed that the Hokies reaped in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. That year marked the only time Tech has ever advanced to the Sweet 16.
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"I don't think you set out and say we want to be a No. 1 seed," Hokies coach Kenny Brooks said after the selection show. "You're taking baby steps and you're trying to go from a 5 [seed] to a 4 [seed] so you can host. Now you have that seeding and now you have a responsibility that comes along with it. You've got to go out and play like a No. 1 seed. There were a lot of worthy teams that could've been the No. 1 seed. We were chosen, I think deservedly so, because of the way we finished the season."
The top four seeds in each of the four brackets get to host a first-round doubleheader and a second-round game.
"It's really cool and I have full faith that the crowd's going to come out and support us, so it'll feel like a really packed home game," Kitley said.
This is the first time Tech has gotten to host in the NCAAs since the 2004 tournament, when eighth-seeded Tech got to stay home for its first-round win over Iowa and its second-round loss to top seed Penn State. Under the 2004 format, the 16 sites for first- and second-round action were chosen before the season.
"It's monumental," Brooks said of getting to host. "It's a huge step for our program."
The Hokies will meet Southern Conference tournament champ Chattanooga (20-12) in the first round Friday. Chattanooga is steered by Shawn Poppie, who was a Tech assistant for six seasons before getting the Chattanooga job last spring. The Mocs are in the field for the first time in six years.
"We started texting each other [during the show] and it was like, 'Bruh, is this going to happen?’" Brooks said. "I was still surprised when it did happen.
"I've watched them play some. A lot of familiarity with his offenses and what they do. I'm sure they'll be familiar with us."
No. 8 seed Southern Cal (21-9) will face No. 9 seed South Dakota State (28-5) in the other first-round game Friday at Tech. The winners will meet in the second round Sunday at Tech.
The other No. 1 seeds are defending champ South Carolina, Indiana and Stanford. Tech is the third overall seed in the 68-team field.
This year there are only two sites for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight instead of four — Seattle and Greenville, South Carolina. Tech will be heading to Seattle if it makes the Sweet 16.
No. 4 seed Tennessee and No. 5 seed Iowa State are potential Sweet 16 foes for Tech if the Hokies make the Sweet 16. The Hokies beat Tennessee this season.
No. 2 seed UConn and No. 3 seed Ohio State are potential Elite Eight foes for Tech if the Hokies make that round.
The final four will be held in Dallas.
Tech has won 11 straight games. The Hokies had earned an automatic bid by winning the ACC tournament for the first time. In the wake of that championship, they were ranked fourth in the Associated Press Top 25 poll last week.
At the conclusion of Sunday's games, the Hokies were No. 9 in the NCAA's NET rankings. They had 12 Quad 1 wins.
This is the fourth time Tech has gotten to host, including the 1994 tournament (when Tech was a No. 8 seed) and the 1999 tournament. The 1999 format was the same as this year, with the top four seeds in each bracket getting to host a first-round doubleheader and a second-round game. In the 1994 format, the top eight seeds in each bracket got to host a first-round game.
This will be Tech's 12th NCAA appearance, including its third in a row. Two years ago in Texas, the seventh-seeded Hokies beat 10th-seeded Marquette before losing in the second round to second-seeded Baylor. The fifth-seeded Hokies lost to 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the first round last year at Maryland.
Virginia Tech is one of three Virginia teams in the field. James Madison is a No. 14 seed and will face No. 3 Ohio State. Norfolk State is a No. 16 seed and will face South Carolina.
Tech is one of eight ACC teams in the field, along with No. 3 seed Notre Dame, No. 3 seed Duke, No. 5 seed Louisville, No. 6 seed North Carolina, No. 7 seed N.C. State, No. 7 seed Florida State and No. 9 seed Miami.
Brooks was named last week one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith women's basketball coach of the year award.
Kitley was named last week one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith women's basketball player of the year award. She was also recently named one of five finalists for the Lisa Leslie Award, which goes to the center of the year.