LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Dominique Kelley tweeted after Nebraska's upset at Texas A&M that she couldn't decide whether it was more fun to reach the NCAA tournament's round of 16 as a player in 2010 or as a graduate assistant coach in 2013.
By Wednesday, after thinking it over a couple days, she had it figured out. Yeah, this season's journey has been a bigger thrill.
The 2010 team was loaded with talent and won its first 30 games. It would have been a surprise if that team hadn't reached the Sweet 16.
This season, the Huskers started out with barely enough healthy players to conduct meaningful practices. The team was so inexperienced and lacking in depth that coach Connie Yori junked her freewheeling motion offense and replaced it with the more structured Princeton system. After losing three of five to start Big Ten play, she scrapped her favored full-court man-to-man defense, swallowed hard and played zone.
The Huskers, winners of 13 of 15 games since mid-January, suddenly are the team no one wants to play.
"It's been more of a ride this year, and I totally think it was unexpected," said star point guard Lindsey Moore, one of two holdovers from 2010. "My freshman year, after we got on that streak, everybody kind of expected it. We had high expectations for ourselves this season. I don't necessarily think everybody else did."
Next up for the sixth-seeded Huskers (25-8) is Sunday's game against No. 2 seed Duke (32-2) in the Norfolk Regional.
The Blue Devils swept the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament championships. They made it to the regional semifinals by rallying from 15 points down in the second half to beat Oklahoma State 68-59 on Tuesday.
"Duke is one of the most talented teams in the nation," Yori said. "They have a roster filled from top to bottom with college All-Americans, All-ACC players, high school All-Americans and USA national program players. It seems like they are in the national-championship discussion every year, and there are some really good reasons for that."
Duke's 6-foot-3 Elizabeth Williams might be the most intimidating center the Huskers will have seen since they played against Baylor's Brittney Griner during their Big 12 days. The Blue Devils also play a pressure defense conducive to forcing turnovers.