By David Villavicencio
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - The brackets are out and the Hurricanes are headed to Iowa City.
The University of Miami women's basketball team learned Monday night at a selection show party on campus that they earned a No. 8 seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament's Norfolk Region. It is the second time in program history that Miami is a No. 8 seed, joining the 1988-89 team.
"I think it's huge to be back in," Miami head coach Katie Meier said. "When you're building, you can do it quick and spike and then it goes away again or you can build a foundation. I think this proves that this program has a solid foundation."
With University of Miami president Donna Shalala and athletic director Blake James in attendance, the Hurricanes saw their name pop up on the big screen at 7:25 p.m., while watching the live selection special on ESPN from inside the BankUnited Center.
"Finally we get to play again," senior Morgan Stroman said. "It's been so long since we've played a game that I can't wait to play again. One of my biggest goals was to get to an NCAA Tournament my last year here and we did it."
The Canes (21-10) will face No. 9 Iowa (20-12) in the first round of the tournament on Sunday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. EST.
"Unfortunately, we have to have the mentality of playing on someone's home court," Meier said. "That is just part of the women's game and driving attendance and peak interest. We've done it before and we're going to have to do it again. But, this is a seasoned team and we've played some great road games. I am expecting Iowa's best game and I know they're going to get ours."
Should they advance, the Hurricanes will face the winner of the game between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 16 Tennessee-Martin.
"That's the only No. 1 seed that doesn't have home court," Stroman said. "The fans bring a different atmosphere to a game and I think it could be good to possibly play them at a neutral site."
Miami guard Stefanie Yderstrom agrees that the opportunity to play Notre Dame on a neutral floor could help the Hurricanes as they try to make a run in the NCAA tournament. But they need to win in the first round before they can think about dethroning a top seed.
"All the No. 1 seeds are really, really good so any little help we can get is good," Yderstrom said. "I think we have a chance, but first we have to focus on Iowa."
The Hurricanes finished tied for fourth in the ACC with an 11-7 record. Of the 21 victories on Miami's tournament resume, signature wins over No. 6 Penn State and No. 4 Duke stand out most.
"There were very few teams in the country that beat someone in the Top 4 and we were one of them so we have that confidence," Meier said.
Miami has made the most of their time off. Since being eliminated in the ACC tournament, the Hurricanes have been working in preparation for the postseason.
"We've spent the last week just working," Meier said. "We have really been very focused on our improvement. We talked about details, communication and toughness because when we won big games we took care of those three things."
Stroman believes the past week of work will go a long way towards getting the Hurricanes to achieve their goal of advancing in the NCAA tournament.
"We've been running and getting back into our best shape, getting our legs back under us," Stroman said. "Now we can focus on playing Iowa. We have to go out there and be aggressive and do what we have to do to win."
For Yderstrom, Miami's first round game was going to be challenging regardless of the opponent. A veteran of two NCAA tournaments, the senior guard knows the environment her team will face on Sunday and she believes they are ready for it.
"It's two teams that are going to play to survive, no matter what the seeds are," Yderstrom said. "Every team is doing their best to stay in. It's going to be hard and we're playing on their home court. It should be a good environment to play. I feel good about it."