Most No. 1 seeds in college conference basketball tournaments around the country enjoy a first-round match-up that is, how shall we say, less than stressful.
But for Arkansas Tech University, the top seed in the inaugural Great American Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament this weekend at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla., there is no opening-round cupcake on the shelf.
The nationally 11th-ranked Golden Suns (22-3) will face Southeastern Oklahoma State (10-16) in the GAC Tournament first round at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 2.
Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will have the broadcast.
Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast.
Southeastern Oklahoma State has participated in the NCAA Division II Tournament in two of the last three years. The Savage Storm was picked to finish third in the GAC this season after it returned three of its top four scorers from a team that was 20-8 overall in 2010-11.
Injuries — not the least of which was losing leading scorer Whitney Coffey for six games during the conference season — helped send Southeastern Oklahoma State to its first losing season since 2005-06.
But Coffey is now back in the line-up and Arkansas Tech head coach Dave Wilbers, who picked the Savage Storm to win the GAC regular season title in the preseason poll, considers Southeastern Oklahoma State a tough first-round opponent for his Golden Suns.
“I’ve always been impressed with Southeastern Oklahoma,” said Wilbers. “They’re well-coached, and they have a lot of experience, including a lot of experience playing (at Bruin Fieldhouse). They do a good job shooting the basketball. They can put four guards on the floor at one time, and their post player (Coffey) is one of their best outside shooters. I think anybody you play in the GAC Tournament — one through eight — is going to be pretty good.”
Arkansas Tech enters the postseason on an 11-game winning streak. The Golden Suns clinched the inaugural GAC regular season championship outright by defeating Southern Arkansas 93-58 in the regular season finale on Saturday.
Tech point guard Rosie Silva has reached double figures in scoring seven consecutive games. The junior from Caracas, Venezuela, has averaged 17.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 4.9 steals per contest during that seven-game span.
“I think we have good balance right now,” said Wilbers. “We can score in a variety of ways. We can go down low on the block, our post players can shoot the jump shot, our guards are doing a good job of getting into the paint and finishing plays and we’re a pretty good 3-point shooting team. We try to take advantage of our strengths, and that includes our transition game.”
Arkansas Tech features four players averaging double figures in scoring — senior forward Natalia Santos (16.8 points per game), Silva (13.2 points per game), senior forward Katie Horsman (12.9 points per game) and junior forward Jessica Weatherford (11.8 points per game).
The Golden Suns have experienced their share of postseason success over the past two years. Arkansas Tech won back-to-back Gulf South Conference Tournament titles and back-to-back NCAA Division II South Region championships in 2010 and 2011.
All-time, the Golden Suns are 89-26 (77 percent) in postseason games.
“We like to treat it just like another game,” said Wilbers when asked about the postseason. “It will be the third time we’ve played Southeastern Oklahoma State, so we know their personnel and what they like to do. The stakes go up a little higher because it’s the conference tournament and we’re battling for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but we just prepare for the next game. I think our team has always been good about not looking ahead. We prepare the same way, come to the gym and practice the same way and go through our scouting report and film study the same way.”
The winner of the Arkansas Tech-SOSU game will advance to the GAC Tournament semifinal round at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 3. The women’s title game is set for 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 4.
All games at the GAC Tournament will be played at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville.
Click here to learn more about Arkansas Tech women’s basketball.