NASHVILLE — UT Martin knows “what” and “when” but not “who.”
For right now, the Skyhawks can wait.
Head coach Kevin McMillan said he’d give his team “a few days off” to bask in the glow of the program’s first-ever Ohio Valley Conference Women’s Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament berth before trying to figure out where the selection committee might bracket his squad.
Speculation began immediately after the Skyhawks knocked off top seed Tennessee Tech 82-76 Saturday to secure the league’s automatic “Big Dance” invite concerning where UTM might land in the 64-team field, which will be announced a week from Monday on March 14. The most obvious of places would be opposite The University of Tennessee, which will be one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games that run from March 19-22 on pre-selected campus sites.
The fourth-ranked Lady Vols — coached by UTM alumnus Pat (Head) Summitt, whose name is on the Skyhawks’ homecourt — won their 15th Southeastern Conference Tournament title on Sunday and are likely to be a top seed in one of four regions with a 22 consecutive victories and a 31-2 overall record.
It is unknown what seed the selection committee will give UT Martin (21-10), though, and if the sub-regional concept traditionally attached to many first round games will hold true to form this year.
“With us not knowing if we’ll be a 16th seed or a 15th seed or a 14th seed, it would be awfully hard for us to start preparing for one particular team,” McMillan said after Saturday’s history-making OVC title game win. “You could be talking about as many as 15 teams that could be a possibility because of us not knowing where we’ll be seeded or in what region.
“There’s still a lot of the other conferences that haven’t played their league tournaments and that could affect the seedings, too. We might catch ourselves at the end of the week — after some of those have been played — starting to look at some (first round) possibilities.”
While UT Martin will be making its first trip to the NCAA tourney since joining the Ohio Valley Conference and Division I ranks in 1992, the Skyhawks have played one other time in the postseason after the conclusion of the OVC season.
In 1999, after finishing as runnerup to Tennessee Tech in the league tournament, UTM played in the Women’s NIT — beating Ole Miss in the first round before losing to Memphis in Round 2.
Editor’s note: Mike Hutchens, the sports editor at The Union City Daily Messenger, may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.