Tuesday, March 18, 2003

No. 24 Arkansas thinking big

By Jenny Marberry
The Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - A motivational quote taped to the back door of Bud Walton Arena set the tone for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks on Sunday as they prepared for NCAA tournament play and first-round match up against Cincinnati.

"You have to think anyway, so why not think big," was the Donald Trump statement posted to inspire the No. 21 Arkansas women.

For Arkansas to achieve the big dream of an NCAA championship, the Lady Razorbacks (21-0) must defeat Cincinnati (23-7) on Cincinnati's home court. The two teams haven't met before.

"The only thing that's hard is you're going to play Cincinnati in the first round on their home court," Blair said. "The key to it is being able to make it past that first round and being able to take enough of our fans up there to where it will make a difference."

If Arkansas advances to the second round of the West bracket, the Lady Razorbacks could face No. 4 LSU, who Arkansas has played three times this season, or Texas, who Arkansas played when it was a member of the old Southwest Conference. Teams advancing to the West Regional will play on March 30 and April 1 at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.

"I was ready to go to Cincinnati," said sophomore Cara Wright, who hails from West Chester, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. "My family doesn't get to see me play that much because they're so far away, so they'll get to see me play now."

As the Lady Razorbacks anxiously sat in the locker room watching the ESPN Special Selection Show, they became more nervous as they saw they weren't in the first three regionals. Arkansas was the 60th team announced out of 64.

"This reminds me of the 1998 season, when we're all sitting there watching (ESPN) and we think, 'my gosh, we're going to be left out,' and we were in the last bracket announced, so hopefully we can make that same type of run," Arkansas head coach Gary Blair said.

A lot of similarities surround the 1998 and 2003 seasons, as the Lady Razorbacks finished both seasons 7-7 in Southeastern Conference play and made it to the second round of the SEC tournament. The Lady Razorbacks advanced to the Final Four in 1998, their first ever.

The current tournament situation was one of six predicted by Blair, and although it wasn't one of the top three, Blair said he'll take it. All the sites for the subregionals were predetermined.

Special NCAA hoops section; Bracket contest

It's more than a Bearcats game
No. 24 Arkansas thinking big
UC out to prove naysayers wrong
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Xavier now the hunted

No. 1 ranking increases ante for UK to win it all
Norse win on putback

March Madness could be delayed by war
Pressure and expectations smother winning coaches
Ohio State suspends Williams
BYU's no-Sunday stance could cause NCAA shuffle
Little Mo leads underdog Bulldogs vs. Sooners
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Bobby Knight's son applies for Wright State job
Spirit of Valvano lifts Whittenburg
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NIT: Iowa 62, Valparaiso 60
UCLA fires Lavin

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