Lady Vols’ NCAA Tournament seeding, first round matchup set

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    The Lady Vols are a 3-seed in this year’s NCAA Women’s Tournament, the NCAA selection committee announced during ESPN’s hour-long selection show on Monday night. Tennessee will play 14-seed Middle Tennessee State on Sunday afternoon 2 p.m. ET on ABC in San Antonio.

    If Tennessee beats in-state foe MTSU, it’ll advance to the second round and play the winner of 6-seed Michigan and 11-seed Florida Gulf Coast. Connecticut is the No. 1 overall seed in the River Walk region, which is the region the Lady Vols are in.

    The Lady Vols are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time during the Kellie Harper era. Harper is now just the second women’s coach in NCAA history to take four different teams to the big dance. She also has taken Western Carolina, NC State and Missouri State to the NCAA Tournament.

    Middle Tennessee is led by former Lady Vol guard Anastasia Hayes, who led the Blue Raiders to a Conference USA Championship while averaging 26.5 points per game, 5.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.8 steals. Hayes transferred from Tennessee under former head coach Holly Warlick.

    MTSU (17-7) captured the Conference USA Championship with a 68-65 win against defending champion Rice last Sunday. It marks the Lady Raiders’ third C-USA championship in four title game appearances and their first since 2016.

    Overall, it is the 16th conference tournament title in program history and the eighth in head coach Rick Insell’s 16 seasons. The Lady Raiders punched their ticket into the NCAA Tournament for the 19th time in program history and the 10th time under Insell.

    Hayes was the Tournament MVP scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Rice for the title. Hayes added seven assists, six rebounds and two steals to her 17-point effort. The C-USA Player of the Year averaged 24.7 points, 6.3 assists and 2.0 steals in three wins at the tournament, while also shooting 60 percent (31-of-52).