DePaul set to make the state proud

  • DePaul's Deirdre Naughton, left, drives past Notre Dame's Kaila Turner during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Big East tournament in Hartford, Conn., on Monday, March 7, 2011.

    DePaul's Deirdre Naughton, left, drives past Notre Dame's Kaila Turner during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Big East tournament in Hartford, Conn., on Monday, March 7, 2011. associated press

  • Notre Dame's Devereaux Petersi, right, fights for a loose ball with DePaul's Katherine Harry during the second half of Notre Dame's 71-67 victory in an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Big East tournament in Hartford, Conn., on Monday, March 7, 2011.

    Notre Dame's Devereaux Petersi, right, fights for a loose ball with DePaul's Katherine Harry during the second half of Notre Dame's 71-67 victory in an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Big East tournament in Hartford, Conn., on Monday, March 7, 2011. associated press

 
 
Updated 3/12/2011 7:50 PM

The prospects for the state of Illinois in the NCAA Tournament are slim.

Illinois will likely be the only representative on the men's side. And DePaul will likely be flying solo on the women's side.

 

It's a sad commentary, no doubt, but here's a silver lining: For women's basketball fans in this state, the only game in town is a really, really good one.

The Blue Demons, who will find out their fate Monday during the NCAA's selection show (6 p.m., ESPN) won't disappoint. Or, at least they shouldn't.

Head coach Doug Bruno, who has had many formidable teams over the course of his 25-year career at DePaul, including 19 20-win teams and 15 NCAA Tournament teams, may be sitting on his best team yet.

The Blue Demons are 27-6 and ranked ninth in the nation.

They plowed through the punishing Big East like nobody's business. And, by the way, that's a conference that could send a whopping 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament. Seriously.

DePaul finished in a tie for second place in the Big East with a 13-3 record in league action. That included wins over five ranked teams, such as St. John's, West Virginia, Marquette, Georgetown and Notre Dame.

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Then, last weekend, the Blue Demons made a strong showing at the Big East tournament, advancing to the semifinals for just the second time in program history.

Earlier in the season, DePaul got its most impressive win when it drop-kicked No. 2 Stanford in Lincoln Park by 20 points (91-71).

With such an impressive resume, some experts are projecting that DePaul could wind up with a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That would be its highest seed in history.

Combine potentially favorable early matchups with a tough nucleus that includes four double-figure scorers led by one of the best forwards in the Big East in Keisha Hampton (16 ppg), and the Blue Demons could be playing deep into March.

Hitting the Elite Eight for the first time in history seems well within reach.

Watch the show:

DePaul is inviting the public to party with the Blue Demons as they watch the NCAA selection show on Monday. The ESPN broadcast will be shown on the big screen at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Lincoln Park. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Doors open at 5 p.m. Fans who would like to attend should RSVP to Katie Ramsey at (773) 325-7504 or cramsey1@depaul.edu.

Big Ten dance teams:

With too many early NCAA Tournament exits over the last couple of years, the Big Ten has taken a beating in the respect department. But league coaches did a great job this season of beefing up their nonconference schedules in an effort to be more prepared come tournament time.

The added bonus is that the Big Ten wound up faring fairly well in some of those marquee matchups against teams such as Iowa State, Nebraska, Boston College, Florida State, Texas, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and DePaul. All were wins.

Now, the league is about to be rewarded for winning the tough ones.

Some experts are estimating that Big Ten could get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, which would tie the record for most tournament teams for the league.

Last year, the Big Ten got only four teams in. In 2007, the Big Ten was embarrassed when only three teams were invited.

But this year, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa are all locks while Purdue is likely in as well. Michigan is on the bubble but should make it as well with big wins over Boston College and Ohio State on its resume.

Northwestern had a strong season and was in the mix. But the Wildcats didn't finish strong enough or advance deep enough into the Big Ten tournament.

The Wildcats won't have to say goodbye to star center Amy Jaeschke just yet, though. They'll likely get an invitation to the WNIT for the second straight season.

No. 1 again:

Three of the four No. 1 seeds in the women's tournament will likely be the same as last year. Expect Connecticut, Tennessee and Stanford all to get top billing once again. The one change will be Nebraska. Baylor, which was a No. 4 seed last year, should get the other No. 1 seed this time.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com