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Utah earns No. 2 seed, will play Gardner-Webb in women’s NCAA tournament

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Utah players clap

Utah celebrates after their selection during the viewing party for the Utah women’s basketball NCAA tournament selection at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on March 12, 2023.

Ryan Sun, Deseret News

Utah women’s basketball earned its highest NCAA tournament seed in program history, drawing the No. 2 seed in this year’s March Madness.

The Utes (25-4, 15-3 Pac-12), will face No. 15 seed Gardner-Webb (29-4, 18-0 Big South) in the first round on Friday at the Huntsman Center.

Gardner-Webb has dominated Big South competition this season, going undefeated in conference play and winning both the regular season title and the conference tournament.

The toughest competition the Runnin’ Bulldogs’, ranked 137 in NET rating, have faced this season has been Alabama (29 NET) and Clemson (58 NET). Gardner-Webb lost by more than 25 to each.

Guard Jhessyka Williams leads Gardner-Webb with 19.8 points per game.

Should Utah advance, it would play the winner of No.7-seeded NC State and No. 10-seeded Princeton in the second round.

Utah will host the first two rounds of the women’s NCAA tournament at the Huntsman Center.

Indiana (27-3) is the No. 1 seed on Utah’s side of the bracket, the Greenville 2 regional.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year Lynne Roberts’ squad, ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll and seventh in NET, will make their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

Utah’s Alissa Pili, the Pac-12’s Player of the Year, leads Utah with 20.2 points per game. The high-octane Utes are a top-five offense, scoring 83.5 points per game.

The Utes surprisingly lost in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals against Washington State, but the strength of their overall resume — featuring four wins over top-20 teams — earned them a No. 2 seed.

A No. 7 seed in the 2022 tournament, the Utes beat No. 10-seeded Arkansas before falling to No. 2-seeded Texas.