Lincoln – Nebraska earned a No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 seed Gonzaga in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship on Friday, March 18 in Louisville, Ky.
The Huskers were joined by approximately 1,000 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena for the official NCAA Selection Show Watch Party presented by Woodhouse on Sunday evening, as ESPN announced the first-ever 68-team women’s tournament bracket for March Madness.
Nebraska (24-8) earned a No. 23 NCAA Net ranking after going 11-7 in Big Ten regular-season and 2-1 to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on March 5. During NU’s Big Ten Tournament run, the Huskers defeated No. 10 Michigan 76-73. It marked Nebraska’s third win over an Associated Top 10 team this season, including a 72-55 win over then-No. 5 Indiana at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Feb. 14. The Huskers also ran to a 79-58 victory over then-No. 8 Michigan at PBA on Jan. 4.
The Huskers have been led this season by second-team All-Big Ten guard Jaz Shelley and second-team All-Big Ten post Alexis Markowski, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Shelley, a 5-9 guard from Moe, Australia, leads the Huskers in scoring (13.1 ppg), assists (5.0 apg), steals (1.8 spg) and blocked shots (1.0 bpg) while ranking second on the team in rebounding (6.5 rpg). The only player to rank among the top 20 in the Big Ten in all five major categories, Shelley was also a Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection by the conference media.
Markowski, a unanimous choice by the coaches to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, ranks among the nation’s best freshmen averaging 12.8 points and a team-best 8.0 rebounds. The 6-3 forward/center from Lincoln, Neb., is the only Power Five conference freshman to average better than 12.0 points and 6.0 rebounds this season.
In addition to Shelley and Markowski, fourth-year guard Sam Haiby and third-year forward Isabelle Bourne added honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades in 2022. Haiby, a 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., is the only player in Husker history to achieve the combined career milestones of 1,000 points (1,361), 500 rebounds (526) and 400 assists (413). She was also a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season. Bourne, a two-time honorable-mention all-league pick from Canberra, Australia, joins Haiby, Shelley and Markowski in giving the Huskers four starters averaging in double figures.
Nebraska’s No. 8 seed marked the Huskers’ best seed in the Big Dance since claiming a No. 4 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament after winning the Big Ten Tournament title. The Huskers are 1-0 in first-round games in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed, defeating No. 9 seed Xavier in College Park, Md., in 2008.
Gonzaga punched its ticket to March Madness with a 71-59 win over BYU in the West Coast Conference Championship Game on Tuesday. The Bulldogs (26-6) went 15-2 in regular-season Big West play and finished No. 25 in the NET rankings. Gonzaga owns wins over 2022 NCAA Tournament qualifiers BYU, Utah, Stephen F. Austin, Montana State and Hawaii. Gonzaga lost twice to both Stanford and BYU and suffered a loss to at-large NCAA selection Washington State.
The Bulldogs and Huskers do have a pair of common opponents this season in San Diego and Wyoming. Gonzaga went 2-0 against USD (76-66, Spokane; 69-43, San Diego) and defeated Wyoming (54-47, Spokane, Dec. 3). The Huskers defeated San Diego 64-56 in San Diego (Nov. 27) and defeated Wyoming 72-61 in Lincoln on Dec. 22.
Melody Kempton (10.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) leads a balanced Bulldog roster that features four players averaging in double figures, including Kayleigh (10.8 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Kaylynne Truong (10.8 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Yvonne Ejim (10.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg). Starters Cierra Walker (9.0 ppg), Abby O’Connor (6.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Anamaria Virjoghe (3.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) give Gonzaga a productive roster from top to bottom that averages 69.3 points per game while surrendering just 55.8 points per contest. The Bulldogs also carry a plus-10.4 rebound margin.
In Louisville, the Cardinals earned a No. 1 seed for Coach Jeff Walz, who was a Nebraska assistant coach under 2022 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Paul Sanderford when current Husker Head Coach Amy Williams was a senior at Nebraska in 1997-98. Louisville (25-4) will face America East Conference Tournament champion Albany (23-9) in the other first-round game at the KFC Yum! Center on Friday.
The Huskers will be making their 15th NCAA appearance in program history, dating back to their first trip in 1988 after winning the Big Eight regular-season championship.