DURHAM, N.C. – Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie is having a difficult time grasping the NCAA's logic when it comes to her team's tournament seed.
The Blue Devils (27-6) played the nation's toughest schedule and had the third-highest RPI, but wound up seeded in the same region as perennial women's basketball powerhouse Connecticut for the second time in four years.
If No. 2 Duke and the top-seeded Huskies both win their first three NCAA tournament games they'll meet in regional finals with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
That doesn't seem fair to McCallie.
"To me that is kind of fascinating," she said. "What, are we trying to do, keep Duke out of the Final Four?"
First Duke must get by 15th-seeded Winthrop, which makes its first tournament appearance, on Saturday. If the Blue Devils win they'll move on to face the winner of the No. 7 DePaul-No. 10 Oklahoma contest, the other first-round game in Durham.
McCallie said she understands not getting rewarded with a No. 1 seed after losing to Notre Dame in the ACC tournament finals, but doesn't know why the Blue Devils were ranked as the fourth No. 2 seed — and eighth seed overall — in the NCAA tournament.
"We should have been the number one two seed," McCallie said. "Look at the numbers."
McCallie called the seeding "unforgivable," and that she could see the dejection on her players' faces when the seeds were announced putting them in same bracket as UConn.
It's "like, c'mon people, wake up," McCallie said. "Look at these things scientifically. Have an objective reality. What's going on with this? Does RPI matter at all? Does strength of schedule matter at all? ... I have to stand up for this team."
Winthrop coach Kevin Cook suggested Duke's seed might have something to do with its injury situation at point guard. All four point guards that began the season on Duke's roster are out.
DePaul and Oklahoma may be low seeds, but both were ranked in the top 15 earlier this year before stumbling.
DePaul (27-6) rebounded to win its final seven games, including a 65-57 victory over St. John's in the Big East championship. However, Oklahoma (18-14) has lost five of its final eight games, including a first-round loss to Texas in the Big 12 tournament.
"We're similar to Oklahoma in the sense that when we're good, we're really good," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "But we can also be average if we're not playing well."
Five things to know about the games Saturday in Durham:
ON POINT: McCallie can't remember a team losing so many point guards in one season. Due to injuries to Chelsea Gray and Alexis Jones, McCallie was forced to have shooting guard Tricia Liston split time at point guard with sophomore Ka'lia Johnson, who joined the starting lineup for the ACC tournament and performed well. "I thought to myself we always wanted to make history, but that's not exactly the kind of history you want to make," McCallie said.
SHARP SHOOTERS: Three of the nation's top 3-point shooters will take the floor this weekend at Cameron Indoor Stadium — Duke's Liston, DePaul's Meghan Rogowski and Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg. Liston ranks second nationally in 3-point field goal percentage at 48.3 percent, while Rogowski is fifth (45.7). Rogowski (101) and Liston (83) each set school single-season school records for 3-pointers made in a season.
A LENGTHY LAYOFF: Oklahoma hasn't played a game in 14 days, but senior point guard Morgan Hook doesn't necessarily feel that's a bad thing. "We're looking at this as an entirely new season, and just taking a different approach," Hook said. "... It's a clean slate for us."
EAGLES HAVE LANDED: Winthrop makes its first NCAA tournament appearance after winning the Big South championship. They have the daunting task of facing a Duke team that has never lost in the first round in 19 NCAA tournament appearances. That doesn't matter to conference player of the year Dequesha McClanahan, who said, "We know we have nothing to lose. We're going to come out and leave it all on the floor. Whatever happens, happens."
DOMINANT DEVILS: It will be difficult for anyone other than Duke to emerge from the pod in Durham this weekend. The Blue Devils have won 18 straight NCAA tournament games at Cameron Indoor Stadium and are 20-1 here overall in tournament play.