DePaul women ready to go against Oklahoma
While traveling to North Carolina last March to watch DePaul play in the NCAA Tournament, Megan Rogowski's family from Prospect Heights rolled in some sightseeing and college visits.
"My parents and my little brother and sister visited Duke and North Carolina and North Carolina State," said Rogowski, a star at Hersey and now the best 3-point shooter in the Big East Conference. "They had a lot of fun, and they'll know what to expect for this year."
Hopefully, the Rogowskis have more items on their "Tobacco Road must-see list" because Megan and DePaul are headed back this year.
The Blue Demons (27-6) learned Monday that they earned the No. 7 seed in the Lincoln regional and will face No. 10 Oklahoma (18-14) on Saturday in first-round action at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke University.
DePaul's first-round game last year also was against a team from Oklahoma. The Blue Demons lost to Oklahoma State, 73-56.
"It's almost like déjà vu, but we're going to flip it (the result) around this time," laughed Rogowski, who was named honorable mention all-Big East. She averaged 15.3 points and hit a league-leading 3.2 3-pointers per game while connecting on 46 percent of her attempts from downtown, also tops in the Big East. "We know what we're getting into down there this time. We'll be a lot more prepared."
DePaul is coming off its best season in years. The Blue Demons, ranked No. 21 in the coaches poll and No. 23 Associated Press, won the Big East regular season title and then won the conference tourney last week. DePaul has won 16 of its final 17 games.
The Blue Demons also set program records for points scored (2,763), 3-pointers (285) and assists (654), and its 27 wins tie for the second-most in school history.
"To win both championships like that was an amazing feeling," said point guard Brittany Hrynko, who joined teammate Jasmine Penny as unanimous choices for first team all-Big East. "We've just got to keep it going."
DePaul last advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2011. If the Blue Demons can get by Oklahoma, their opponent would be either the host Blue Devils, who are the No. 2 seed in the region, or No. 15 Winthrop.
TV time: The DePaul game will air Saturday on ESPN2 about 30 minutes after the Duke-Winthrop game, which tips at 10 a.m. Central.
The matchup: DePaul and Oklahoma are meeting for just the second time. The two schools last played to open the 2006-07 season in Norman, Okla. The Sooners won that game 105-71.
Oklahoma reached the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament this season and is making its 17th NCAA Tournament appearance. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
"Traditionally, Oklahoma and DePaul have played pretty similar styles," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. "We both like to score the ball, we both like to share the ball, we both like to shoot 3s."
Standing alone: For the second time in three years, the DePaul women's basketball team is the only team in the state of Illinois -- men or women -- to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"Every year, everybody's always talking about how no one from Illinois goes to the NCAA Tournament," Bruno said. "Of course, they're always talking about the men. I don't know if we're 'no one' or not, but we've still been going."
DePaul has earned berths in 12 consecutive NCAA tournaments. Only eight other programs have appeared in the last 12 NCAA tournaments. Those programs include Connecticut, Duke, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Classroom champs: The DePaul women won the national championship.
Inside the classroom, that is.
On Tuesday, the Blue Demons won the Inside Higher Ed's academic national championship.
Inside Higher Ed took the 64-team field of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament that was announced Monday and advanced teams based on their APR (the NCAA's multiyear measure of classroom progress) and their NCAA Graduation Rate Success.
Based on that formula, the Blue Demons topped Marist for the national title. It is the second time in three years that DePaul has been recognized with the top academic program in the tournament.
"t's something that has been a goal of ours, and I'm proud of being one of the nation's top women's basketball programs on the court and in the classroom," Bruno said.
"It's incumbent upon the head coach to set up a culture of academic competitiveness and accountability."
Bruno admits he wasn't always on track academically as a basketball player himself at DePaul. He said he sometimes skipped classes.
"The reason I believe so strongly in academics is because as a student-athlete myself, I abused my educational opportunity at DePaul," Bruno said. "I was like 90 percent of all the other male athletes and cared only about basketball.
"But thanks to the leadership and direction of people like Dr. Patricia Ewers, Dr. Hugh Ingrasci, Father Jeremiah Lehane, Father John Battle, professor Albert Erlbacher, Dr. Marty Lowery and all my other professors at DePaul -- they pulled me out of my academic indifference.
"These people are a big reason why I am here today."
More tournament games:
The Northwestern women's basketball team earned a berth into the 64-team WNIT postseason tournament.
The Wildcats, who went 15-15 on the season while being led by star freshman Nia Coffey, will host Ball State (18-16) on Thursday with the time to be announced.
Tickets, which can be purchased on the day of the event only, are $8 general admission and $6 for youth. Group tickets also are available for $5. For more info, contact Northwestern's ticket office at 888-GO-PURPLE.
The B1G dancers: Besides Northwestern, eight other Big Ten women's teams earned some kind of postseason bid.
Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa and Purdue made it into the NCAA Tournament, while Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana are in the WNIT tournament with the Wildcats.
• Patricia Babcock McGraw also works as a color analyst for DePaul broadcasts. Follow her on Twitter@babcockmcgraw.