It has been a while since Texas Tech has taken the floor to play a game.
Now after nearly a two-week layoff, since falling in the first round of the Big 12 Conference Championships in Dallas to Oklahoma State, the Lady Raiders open the first round of the NCAA Tournament against South Florida.
"It's going to feel really great," senior guard Monique Smalls said. "Two weeks—you don't realize how long it is until you're out there and on the practice court playing against each other over and over again. It was fun, we saw a lot of people's competitive side, we got after each other but we made each other better. So coming into this game we're all excited because we've been waiting to play a game for two weeks now."
Tech (21-10, 11-7 in Big 12 play) is in its first NCAA Tournament since 2011 and unlike the last time they were in the big dance, the Lady Raiders get to stay at home and play in front of a friendly crowd.
Lubbock was chosen as a regional host site for the 2013 NCAA Tournament in the fall, and senior Chynna Brown said with the chance to play in front of the fans that have cheered them on all season long is special.
"It is always good to have the home court advantage; we get to play in front of fans, and family and friends," she said. "We are just excited and ready to go."
In the first round, the Lady Raiders got placed against an opponent that they have faced only twice in school history – South Florida.
The Bulls (21-10, 9-7 in Big East Conference play) are in the tournament for the first time since 2006 - USF falling to USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that season, losing 67-65.
"Everyone's pretty excited," South Florida junior Akila McDonald said about getting into the tournament. "It's been awhile since South Florida's gotten into the tournament, and this team worked really hard to get here. So we're just excited and we're ready to get it started."
Joining the party in the upsets of the top teams in the land were the Lady Raiders playing spoiler twice this season.
Tech beat then-No.13/12 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 64-59, on January 2 and then topped then-No. 23/21 Kansas, 70-63, on January 19.
With both teams having experience playing the big games, winning close ones and losing a few as well, Tech head coach Kristy Curry compares the Bulls to the Lady Raiders in a multitude of ways.
"Well I think they have seven seniors and we have five so, it's definitely two mature squads who have been through a lot of different situations throughout the year," Curry said. "They have won some close ones, they've been down 13 and come back and won, and we've been down and come back and won, and we've lost some close ones. So it's been fun to watch them on film because, we are both very similar. And our path has been very similar. You know they just have great guard play, transition, and they are very athletic. It's very fun to watch on film because, we are very similar."
Now the stage has been set - the United Spirit Arena.
The red carpet has been rolled out, the cameras are in place and all that is left is to throw the ball up at 5:30 p.m. today and see at the end of 40 minutes, or maybe even longer, which team comes out on top, which team's season continues to at least Monday night.
"I think we have a lot under our belt, from good and bad," senior Casey Morris said. "We've had great seasons and seasons where we wanted to do great and we didn't do that well. I think from all the experience in general I think its been good for us, and I think that the NCAA tournament is a time where we can step it up and play like its our last game."