- Blair Angulo, Reporter, WeAreSC.com
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The UCLA women's basketball team is the No. 3 seed in the Spokane Region and will face No. 14-seeded Montana on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (PT). The game will air live on ESPN2.
Over the weekend, coach Nikki Caldwell had made it known that she believed the conference runner-up Bruins (27-4) deserved a No. 2-seeding. She didn't back down from that claim Monday afternoon during a teleconference with reporters.
"The committee, if [they] base it on RPI, your last 10 games, whatever their criteria is, there must have been something we didn't do," Caldwell said. "What that is, at this point, we don't know. We can't necessarily dwell on it or change it. It is where it's at. We're going to have to move forward and be ready to compete in Spokane and be ready to accept the challenges that are ahead of us. That's what March Madness is about."
Despite the disappointment, UCLA matched its highest seed ever in NCAA tournament play. The Bruins received a No. 3 seed back in 1998-99 and advanced to the Elite Eight. They drew a No. 8 seed last year and beat North Carolina State before falling to top-seeded Nebraska in the second round.
The experience is fresh in senior guard Doreena Campbell's mind.
"It's pretty intense," she said. "Intensity picks up, people's level of play picks up. It's wild."
Caldwell, Campbell and junior forward Jasmine Dixon each said they were unfamiliar with Montana. Caldwell said she would study tape Monday evening.
"I know that we're going to have to be able to defend the three ball because they shoot it quite a bit," Caldwell said. "When you're putting up that many threes and hitting almost 34 percent of them, that's not a bad percentage. We're going to have to be ready to extend our defense and board the long shots as well. But this time of year, they're going to be inspired to play, they're going to be inspired that they're in the tournament. I know that they are doing the same thing we're doing -- getting film and becoming more familiar with each other. We'll see how that goes next week."
The winner of the UCLA-Montana game will play the winner of Iowa-Gonzaga on March 21 at 6:30 p.m. If Gonzaga wins, it would pit UCLA, essentially, in a road game against the No. 6 seed.
"That's the thing that is interesting," Caldwell said. "We were a No. 3 seed and we were a No. 3 going to Gonzaga to [potentially] play Gonzaga. I guess, however the committee got to that point, it is what it is. Gonzaga is a very, very good team. They've only had one loss at home this year. ... No favors were done, nor were they expected. We're a team that understands that we're trying to move not only our program, but the Pac-10, into that national respect that it deserves. We're going to keep doing our part, we're going to come out and do what we've done."
Pac-10 champion Stanford, the No. 1 seed in the Spokane Regional, and Arizona State, a No. 7 seed, were the only other Pac-10 teams to earn bids. Three of UCLA's four losses this season were to Stanford. The two could potentially meet in the regional finals.
Caldwell hopes it happens.
"Of course," she said. "I think you don't ever overlook anyone, but you do have to see what's down the road."