Taelor Karr transformed into instant analyst Monday afternoon as Gonzaga discovered its first-round opponent for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
GU’s senior guard provided her teammates with the “first look” at Iowa State, the Bulldogs’ opponent Saturday afternoon, during a draw viewing party at the Herak Club.
Karr played two seasons at Iowa State’s Big 12 rival, Kansas State, before transferring to Gonzaga.
“(Taelor) said they actually recruited her for a while,” said GU junior guard Haiden Palmer, recently crowned Most Valuable Player at the West Coast Conference tournament. “She knows them and played against them. She said it was a good matchup for us.”
“I kind of know some of their players still from when I was at K-State for two years,” said Karr, the WCC MVP. “They’re a great team. They have a great coaching staff. … They have great skill inside and out, so they’re going to be a tough test.”
The 12th-seeded Bulldogs (27-5), playing in their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament, will meet the fifth-seeded Cyclones (23-8) at 1:15 on GU’s home court at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The day’s second game, 30 minutes after the completion of GU-ISU, will feature fourth-seeded Georgia (25-6) and Big Sky Conference champion Montana (23-7), the 13th seed.
Both games will be televised on ESPN2.
Saturday’s winners will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday for a berth in the Sweet 16, March 30 at the Arena.
GU is hoping to duplicate its 2011 tournament, when it won twice at McCarthey and moved on to the Sweet 16 at the Arena. Top-seeded Stanford (31-2), second-seeded California (28-3) and third-seeded Penn State (25-5) are favorites to move past the first two rounds at other sites and join the McCarthey survivor at the Arena.
Iowa State is making its seventh consecutive tournament appearance under coach Bill Fennelly, who has a career record of 561-234 in 18 seasons at Ames and seven seasons at the University of Toledo. Fennelly was awarded a lifetime contract after the 2006-07 season.
“If they were in the West Coast, we would battle with Iowa State for recruits all the time,” Bulldogs coach Kelly Graves said. “We have very similar styles. We like the same kind of players.”
For the first time, ISU had two players selected the All-Big 12 first team: forwards Hallie Christofferson, a 6-foot-3 junior, and Chelsea Poppens, a 6-2 senior. Christofferson averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while Poppens averaged 13.1 points and 9.5 rebounds.
The Cyclones have dropped three of their last eight games, including a 75-47 loss to top-ranked and top-seeded Baylor in the Big 12 Conference tournament championship game.
The Bulldogs and Cyclones have never met.
Gonzaga is on a 15-game winning streak. The Bulldogs have advanced to at least the Sweet 16 at the last three tournaments.
GU sophomore forward Sunny Greinacher, an All-WCC honorable mention selection, played limited minutes during last year’s NCAA wins at McCarthey and a Sweet 16 loss at Kingston, R.I.
“I still don’t really know how the whole thing goes with the seeding and what (determines) anything,” she joked. “For me, I had no clue. I was just sitting here and watching the show.”