Before the Final Four, the Tigers are focused on classes
The top-ranked basketball team in the nation has a lot to worry about as they prepare for the Final Four this weekend in Holland, Mich.
Aside from the travel and packing, there's studying film, media and community commitments, press conferences, banquets, the pressure of being undefeated and, oh yeah, the games.
But the DePauw women's basketball team has one other concern.
"It's around the midterms time and it's around the time people have to turn in papers and tests," senior guard Kate Walker said. "I was texting (teammate Ellie Pearson) right before class started and said, 'Oh, it's going to be so hard to focus in this class.' Because all I do is think about this upcoming weekend."
No one becomes No. 1 without talent, but it also takes an incredible amount of hard work.
For the DePauw women, that carries over from the hardwood to the lecture halls.
"They carry the same thing in the classroom as on the court. They want to excel," DPU head coach Kris Huffman said. "Our players don't like to miss class, but hopefully this is a good enough reason to miss a day or two."
Taking a few days off class -- especially with midterms approaching --doesn't make academic success easy.
Junior forward Alison Stephens hustled to get to a study group immediately after practice on Tuesday night. While her peers took their midterm Wedne-sday evening, Stephens was on her way to Holland.
"Next week is going to be very hard because I have to take all my midterms next week and I'll miss a lot of review sessions," Stephens said. "It's hard because it's all going to be packed into one very busy week. With all the excitement I haven't really focused on that at all yet."
The professors have been helpful and accommodating. They've passed along homework assignments early, delayed tests and even given coach Huffman quizzes to administer between events on Thursday.
Still, no matter how much assistance the players get, balancing academics and basketball is a challenge.
"I have a take-home test that I have to do now," Walker said. "It's not bad for me necessarily, but a few other girls have a pretty hard academic week. I've been pretty blessed this week, honestly."
Aside from missing the academics, the Tigers will also have to spend a couple days away from friends and peers.
Many of those other DePauw students have made classes this week a little more entertaining. The Tigers are not quite rock stars on campus, but they're about as close as it gets in Greencastle.
"I don't know about a rock star, but we don't have to go to class tomorrow. Which is cool," Stephens said. "Professors have wished me good luck. Other students know what's going on so they wish me good luck. It's really nice."
The Tigers have enough to worry about as they prepare for the biggest basketball weekend of their lives. No one on the team will take their focus away from the games ahead.
For one week only, the classes will have to wait.
"It is fun. A lot of people acknowledge you and say, 'Oh, good luck this weekend,' or, 'Oh, I'm coming this weekend,'" Walker said. "It's exciting to hear how many people are actually coming to support us.
"It's exciting that the school is coming together and is going to support us."