San Diego State sophomore forward Shelda Arceneaux said she had a feeling that her team would be invited to the NCAA Tournament. But she wasn't sure about the news until a slip of the tongue by one of her coaches Sunday morning.
"I was over by the (basketball office) this morning and Coach (Darryl) Toliver told me to be sure to break in my new shoes this week," Arceneaux said. "Then I went inside and me and Lynette Nutter were jumping around giving each other high-fives."
Despite a fourth-place finish in the Western Collegiate Athletic Assn. and an up-and-down season, the 19th-ranked Aztecs (20-8) were picked as an at-large team to compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional by the NCAA selection committee.
The Aztecs, seeded fifth, will take on Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. tournament champion Nevada Las Vegas at 7:30 Friday night in the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas in the first round.
"Some of the kids were happy and overwhelmed about the selection," San Diego State Coach Earnest Riggins said. "I had told them all along to keep playing hard because we had a chance of being there.
"I think the fact that we played such a strong schedule and the fact that we had such a good record away from home (9-3) were the keys. We're just happy to get in and now we'll just take our chances from here."
After an 84-46 loss to UCLA on Feb. 27, the Aztecs' chances of making their second straight NCAA appearance seemed dim. But SDSU came back to beat Stanford, 76-60, on Friday night to clinch the berth.
"We had a feeling they might only take three teams from our conference," Arceneaux said. "But Coach Riggins told us to keep playing hard against Stanford."
Said Aztec guard Penny Toler: "I'm just like the rest of the team . . . happy. Now we have a chance just like everybody else to win a national championship."
In order to so, however, SDSU will have to play without All-American forward Tina Hutchinson. Hutchinson was scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery on her left knee on Tuesday but Riggins said that she may postpone the surgery so that she can accompany the team to Las Vegas. She will not play, however.
The Rebels (26-4) may also play without their top player, Misty Thomas, who injured her knee on Saturday. Thomas a 5-foot 11-inch guard, averaged 21.0 points a game this season.
Cal State Long Beach accomplished all the goals that Coach Joan Bonvicini set for the 1984-85 regular season by winning the Detroit Invitational and Long Beach Dial tournaments and the WCAA championship.
But those achievements won't seem as significant to Bonvicini unless the 49ers can obtain what she calls "the ultimate goal." Long Beach begins its quest for the national championship Saturday night when the 49ers play host to BYU in a first-round game.
"We won't remember the regular season unless we do well in the NCAA tournament," Bonvicini said. "I want to remember our last game this year."
The last two years, Long Beach was eliminated by USC in the West Regional championship game--one win short of the Final Four.
The third-ranked 49ers (26-2) are the top-seeded team in the West Region and are seeded fourth nationally.
WCAA rivals USC and UCLA received at-large tournament berths, with the Trojans playing Idaho on Friday night in the Sports Arena and the Bruins traveling to Washington to face the Huskies on Friday night.
If Long Beach and USC win their first-round games, they will meet again on March 21 in the West Regional semifinals in Pauley Pavilion. The teams split their regular-season series.
The UCLA-Washington winner will meet the winner of Saturday's Tennessee Tech-Georgia game. The Bulldogs, ranked eighth in the nation but seeded fifth in the tournament, were placed in the West bracket.
Top-seeded Texas joins eighth-seeded Mississippi in the Mideast Region, third-seeded Louisiana Tech and sixth-seeded Northeast Louisiana were placed in the Midwest Region, while second-seeded Old Dominion and seventh-seeded Ohio State are in the East.