PowerMizzou - Mizzou surprised by NCAA seeding but pleased with location
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Mizzou surprised by NCAA seeding but pleased with location

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Missouri women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton never comes into the locker room before practice. It just doesn’t happen. That’s why senior Lauren Aldridge and the rest of the Missouri team was shocked to see Pingeton enter the locker room before practice on Monday afternoon.

She came to tell the team there would be a team meeting before practice. According to Aldridge, a meeting in the back of the locker room usually means something bad happened. This time, it meant Missouri had an extra few hours to prepare for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Pingeton already knew the team’s seed and opponent hours before the bracket’s official release. The entire bracket had been leaked on ESPNU.

Mike Donovan, Missouri’s video coordinator, passed the leaked information to Pingeton during a staff meeting. Then SEC representatives confirmed the information. The Tigers had drawn the No. 7 seed in the Greensboro region and would play No. 10-seeded Drake on Friday, March 22.

It was exciting news for the program: Missouri’s fourth straight NCAA Tournament bid. This marks the first time the Tigers have achieved that since 1983-1986. However, the opponent and location meant much more to Pingeton than simply getting into the field. This year’s start to Missouri’s NCAA Tournament campaign will be in her back yard.

Missouri’s first-round game will be in Iowa City, Iowa. It’s a short drive from Pingeton’s home town of Atkins, Iowa and from her alma mater St. Ambrose. Pingeton was an assistant coach at Drake in 1990. Two years prior, she took her first head coaching job at St. Ambrose.

Friday’s match between Pingeton and Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk will be a reunion of sorts. The two coaches played for Lisa Bluder, the head coach for Iowa. As it turns out, the Hawkeyes are the No. 2 seed in the Greensboro region, meaning if Missouri beats Drake, it will most likely face Bluder and Iowa in the second round.

Even though the No. 7 seed was lower than expected, Iowa City was one of the host sites the Tigers preferred. It’s about a four-hour drive from Columbia to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and that will allow Missouri fans easy access to supporting the Tigers.

“You can’t get much better than four hours,” junior Jordan Roundtree said. “Obviously, you can’t really count on fans to win you a game, but it certainly helps. Mizzou Arena is a tough place to play, so I think we are going to have a good showing.”

ESPN’s Charlie Crème had Missouri as a fifth seed in his final bracketology Sunday. That’s where Pingeton expected the team to be placed during the selection show Monday evening. The news that the Tigers fell to a seven seed was surprising, especially after beating Kentucky in the SEC Tournament.

“I don’t think any of us expected the seventh seed,” senior Cierra Porter said. “But, you get to this point and there is a lot of talented teams that didn’t even make the tournament. You’re just thankful, then you get to work focusing on the team you’re going to play.”

Pingeton admitted that she and her staff hadn’t seen much tape on Drake. But the biggest early takeaway from the Bulldogs was their zone defense and three-point shooting.

Drake led the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and three-pointers made this season. The Bulldogs went 17-1 in conference play, losing to conference champion Missouri State once in the regular season and again in the MVC championship.

The Tigers first round matchup will be televised on ESPN 2 at 3 p.m.