The Tigers (29-5), who are making their fourth straight trip to the nationals, will raise the curtain on this year's 32-team affair when they meet St. Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) at 9:30 this morning. Holy Family is the No. 8 seed; St. Thomas (23-7) is No. 25.
Tomorrow, the Holy Family men's team makes its first appearance in the national tournament since the 1995-96 season when it faces Black Hills State (S.D.) in Nampa, Idaho. The Tigers enter play as the No. 22 seed; Black Hills is No. 11.
The Holy Family women reached the final eight a year ago before falling, 68-57, to Walsh (Ohio).
``We have a kind of strange mix on this team - a lot of kids that are back from last year, but a lot of freshmen who have never been there,'' coach Mike McLaughlin said.
``The key for us is the first game. We can't start thinking about the final eight or the final four unless we take care of that first-round game first.''
Daniels leads the Tigers in scoring with a 14.1 points-per-game average. Forward Kim Burski averages 13.0. Holy Family has four players who average between six and 10 points per game.
Holy Family finished the regular season ranked sixth in the nation, but was upset by the University of the Sciences in the Northeast Atlantic Conference playoffs. The Tigers, an at-large team, still received a seed that reflects their strong regular-season play.
``I think we're more excited about this one than we ever have been,'' Daniels said.
``We could have won it last year. I know we didn't, but we could have. We didn't play our game. This year, I think we can.''
The men also are taking a nothing-to-lose approach. After winning the NAC title, the Tigers (27-8) are riding a wave of momentum. Black Hills is 24-6.
``The guys - especially the seniors - don't want to see this season end,'' said forward Chris Berry, a Father Judge graduate who averages 16 points per game.
``We feel like we're playing our best basketball right now. We think we can carry that into the tournament.''
Holy Family men's coach Dan Williams said the Tigers have been ``on cloud nine'' since beating the University of the Sciences for the NAC crown on Feb. 27.
His job, he said, has been to get his team back down to earth. Black Hills finished the regular season ranked seventh in the nation.
``To win the conference was a really big thrill,'' Williams said. ``Now I think they're ready for the next challenge.
``We're going out there with the idea of trying to play our best basketball. If we can do that, good things can happen. I know one thing: These guys won't be intimidated.''
Senior guard Erik Henrysen, a 2,000-point career scorer, leads the Tigers with 19 points per game.
``This is a really loose team,'' said Henrysen, an Archbishop Ryan graduate. ``We were loose in the playoffs and everyone's real loose now.
``We're going out there and try to play the same way, then see what happens.''