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Vanderbilt reaches NCAA tourney for 15th straight time

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Vanderbilt women's coach Melanie Balcomb Vanderbilt women's coach Melanie Balcomb
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Vanderbilt's women's basketball team was selected to play in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament for the 15th straight season when the brackets were announced Monday night.

The Commodores (18-12), who were considered a bubble team, firmly landed a place in the field with a No. 8 seed.

Vanderbilt will face No. 9-seeded Arizona State (22-9) in the first round of the Notre Dame Region in Toledo, OH.

"I was a little on the edge of my seat with us being in that last bracket," said senior point guard Jasmine Lister. "We can't take it for granted. I definitely think our team was really anticipating a 10 seed. We got better than we thought we were going to get. We can't complain about that."

The Commodores had lost nine of their last 11 games to close the season. An impressive resume that included wins over seven other teams that qualified for the tournament, including No. 1 seed Tennessee.

The Southeastern Conference placed eight teams in the tournament and the conference's RPI was ranked No. 1.

"I was really impressed with what the SEC received, the amount of teams, getting eight teams in, and then how high their seeds were," said Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb. "I think that just shows our league is the best in the country. It really helped us and every one in our conference."

The Commodores play Arizona State on Saturday at 10 a.m. in Toledo. The winner of that game will play the winner of unbeaten Notre Dame, the region's top seed, and Robert Morris.

Vanderbilt received a No. 8 seed for the second year in a row. Last year the Commodores beat St. Joseph's in the first round in Storrs, CT, then had to play eventual national champion Connecticut on its home court.

"We had it last year. We had to go play UConn at UConn," said Balcomb. "I'm not saying this is a lot better, but we don't have to repeat that."

This year's tournament will be Vanderbilt's 27th appearance in the tournament. The Commodores have won at least one tournament game in 10 of the past 11 seasons under Balcomb.

"I think it says everything about the program," said Balcomb. "I think that's what helps in recruiting, that long-term success, that consistency. It's a really good feeling to know that you can do that as a program. When you can do what we've done over this period of time, that's a good program."

The Commodores hope to reverse the team's fortunes from the finish of the season. Seven of the team's nine losses down the stretch were by less than six points.

"I don't think a lot has to change," said Balcomb. "We've been working on improving and finishing games better. We've practiced really well all week. I've really liked what our players have done, not knowing whether we're going on or not. We got better this week."

"We have to improve our starts to the game," said Lister. "We have to dog ourselves out of these holes. I think if we come out more focused on what our game plan is, that will help us in this tournament."

Lister and Christina Foggie, the most prolific 3-point shooter in school history, are the only seniors on the team loaded with four freshmen, four sophomores and one junior.

The Commodores have been without freshman Heather Bowe, who averaged 11.4 points per game over the first nine games of the season before being diagnosed with a blood clot, and sophomore Heather Bowe, who started the first 21 games of the season before being dismissed for the spring semester after a violation of academic policy.

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