MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University merited much better treatment than it obviously received from the 2008 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament selection committee.
The Mountaineers, 26-7 with a third-place finish in the Big East Conference, happily accepted a No. 5 seed. But they seemed stunned to learn that their first-round game will be on the home court of No. 12 New Mexico (20-12) at Albuquerque, N.M.
West Virginia couldn’t have gotten a worse pairing. That building is called University Arena, but it’s known far and wide simply as The Pit. The Lobos have won about 84 percent of their home games therein over the past dozen years.
That’s a long, long way to go and have to play a basketball tournament game on a home court noted as one of the nation’s toughest for visiting teams.
I think it’s grossly unfair, especially to one with a high seed against a low seed.
WVU coach Mike Carey said, “That’s the way it is in the women’s tournament. It’s a shame you have to play on people’s home court.”
While pleased with his team’s No. 5 seed, he thought the selection committee would have assigned the Mountaineers to a closer site for early games. Wouldn’t College Park, Md., or Norfolk, Va., have been a more fitting site?
Keep in mind that we’re talking a deserving Top 20 from the Big East, considered by some as the country’s best conference for women’s as well as men’s basketball competition. The league has a total of eight teams, male and female, in the NCAAs.
Granted, it’s a tough task selecting teams for 34 at-large tournament berths. But do the knowledgeable men and women putting together the 64-team field really use common sense as well as won-and-lost records?
Another reason one must wonder about that is the committee’s decision to place both Connecticut and Rutgers in the same region? This means only one of the two can advance to the Final Four this year.
Both are perennial powers and currently ranked No. 1 and No. 7, respectively, in the national polls.
The Associated Press quoted Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer as saying, “I didn’t think there was any way on God’s Earth that this would happen. I am just stunned and shocked. This is a mind-blower.”
This isn’t the first time West Virginia has had to play an NCAA tournament game on an opponent’s home floor.
“We did that my first time going into the NCAAs (2004),” Carey recalled. “We played Ohio State on their home court. Of course, we were a lower seed then, so it really didn’t bother me as much.
“Now we’re a fifth seed playing on the 12 seed’s home court. That’s a big advantage (for New Mexico). We’re disappointed.”
Indeed, it’s absolutely pitiful!
The Lobos are averaging 8,500 fans for their home games this year. And for Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. clash with WVU, officials are expecting a crowd of more than 13,000.