Inside his office Friday morning, while other staff members were sitting in meetings, Gonzaga’s Kelly Graves pulled together fellow coaches Robin Selvig of Montana, Andy Landers of Georgia and Bill Fennelly of Iowa State to pose for a picture.
That was only 2,614 combined career victories at all levels, and 71 NCAA tournament appearances gathered together inside the McCarthy Athletic Center, an impressive collection of coaching success that would be hard to match at any other site for the first weekend of the NCAA women’s tournament.
“Three Hall of Fame coaches really. I feel like the schmuck of the group,” Graves said. “People that I look up to. It was humbling to have them all there. It was unique just to have the chance to talk for a little bit.”
That depth of coaching experience and success will be on display today when No. 12 seed Gonzaga faces fifth-seeded Iowa State and No. 4 seed Georgia takes on 13th-seeded Montana in the first round of the Spokane Regional.
While Graves (353 wins) and Fennelly (561 wins) deserve praise for the jobs they’ve done at Gonzaga and Iowa State, respectively, the matchup between Georgia and Montana features two of the longest-tenured coaches in women’s basketball.
Selvig (798 wins) and Landers (820 wins at Georgia) have 1,618 wins between them at their current schools in a combined 69 seasons of coaching. They are among the elite of women’s basketball with at least 700 career wins and Selvig needs only two more to join Landers in the 800-win club.
If the rest of the NCAA women’s tournament bracket looks familiar, it should.
Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford all earned No. 1 seeds when the field was announced.
Those four schools are in the top slots for the second straight year — the first time that’s ever happened in NCAA tournament history.
The similarity to 2012 doesn’t stop there. Three of the No. 2 seeds are repeaters from last year also.
“We probably all knew who the No. 1 seeds were,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Unlike the men’s side, where it was a topsy-turvy season with major upsets seemingly every week, women’s basketball hasn’t had the same parity. The top six teams in the final Associated Press poll only had two losses outside of each other, the fewest by far since writers began voting for the AP’s No. 1 in the 1994-95 season.
“To think that the rest of the field is going to catch up to Baylor or Notre Dame or the top four or five teams in the country this year is probably unrealistic,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
Even President Barack Obama agrees. In his 2013 bracket, he is going with Brittney Griner and Baylor to win back-to-back titles by defeating Notre Dame in the April 9 final in New Orleans, a repeat of last year’s NCAA title matchup.