DePaul women prepare for tourney
It's not DePaul coach Doug Bruno's job to promote the fact his women's team is the lone state representative in either NCAA tournament.
As he said Friday while on the team's bus headed to Cincinnati, Ohio, for Sunday's first-round game with Vanderbilt, "I'm not gloating over it."
That may be the correct thing to say, but others are allowed to be more expressive. DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto took that opportunity earlier in the week during her news conference to discuss the school's men's basketball opening.
"Let me say this as the proud athletic director of the one team that is in the NCAA tournament, our women's team, I think the job that Doug Bruno is doing is a great example for anybody coming forward," Lenti Ponsetto said. "Doug is about to participate in his 15th NCAA tournament, his eighth in a row, and I think that's a great indicator of the level of commitment that DePaul makes not only to men's basketball, but to all of our programs."
DePaul's women's program is the basketball pride of the university, city, state and even the president of the United States as Barack Obama picked the 11th-seeded Blue Demons over No. 4 Vanderbilt in his bracket.
"President Obama is a hooper," Bruno said. "He's knows his hoops. You got to remember St. Vincent de Paul is a Democrat, and the Vanderbilts are probably Republicans. You also have to remember President Obama is from the state of Illinois. I would hope he would support his home-state team."
Obama, of course, doesn't have any other state teams to show his allegiance to. While every other men's and women's program within the state has had its ups and downs in the past decade, Bruno has made trip after trip to the NCAA tournament.
"I think we've established in our past making it there is an expectation," Bruno said.
Some years have been easier than others. This season, the Blue Demons (21-11) had to the face the obstacle of losing their star player, Deirdre Naughton, early in the season to a knee injury, and it took them some time to adjust.
DePaul did begin putting it all together late in the season. After being blown out by Connecticut and Notre Dame, the Blue Demons won five of their last six games and reached the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.
Throughout that span, someone different emerged in each game, with junior guard Sam Quigley being the one consistent factor.
In the Big East quarterfinals, Katherine Harry stepped up for DePaul with 17 points and 8 rebounds against Marquette. In the regular-season finale against South Florida, Keisha Hampton had 23 points. On Feb. 27, Anna Martin, a freshman, scored a career-high 31 points against Syracuse. Against Pittsburgh on Feb. 23, Felicia Chester had 18 points and 11 rebounds. On Feb. 20 against Marquette, Jennifer Juergens had a team-high 16 points off the bench.
Bruno believes DePaul is capable of even more.
"I still don't think we've scratched the surface," Bruno said. "We still go through six or seven great possessions followed by six or seven possessions that if you were watching you would want to switch to a reality show. We're a work in progress.
"I think they're still improving. They're making great strides. When you coach in this sport, teams grow up overnight."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.