By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Sometimes getting what you wish for isn’t all you thought it would be, and so it was with West Virginia’s women’s basketball team.
Given a No. 2 seed for the upcoming NCAA Women’s Tournament, the highest seed in school history and one a spot higher than they expected to get after losing the Big 12 Conference championship game to Baylor, the Mountaineers learned that they did little to increase the respect the program was given or to improve their chances of reaching the Final Four.
West Virginia will play at 3 p.m. Sunday in Baton Rouge, La., in a first-round game against No. 15 Albany (28-4), who defeated Stony Brook, 70-46, for their third consecutive America East title.
The Mountaineers begin their drive toward the Final Four on a road filled with land mines.
“My first thought is how difficult a road West Virginia has been given,” said analyst Rebecca Lobo, the one-time Connecticut center and All-American.
Not only does West Virginia figure to come up against No. 7 seed LSU, who faces No. 10 Georgia Tech in its first game, on its home floor should it get past Albany, but then it will go to the Regional Final and probably face No. 3 seed Louisville on its home floor.
That is a No. 2 seed facing two opponents on their home floors without ever playing a home game themselves, while No. 2 seeds Duke and Baylor play two home games and the other No. 2 seed, Stanford, would play the regional final on its home court.
“We knew we were going to have to play on someone’s home court,” Carey admitted. “It is what it is. When you get into the second round, you are going to play good teams. You’d rather not play them on their home floor, but it is what it is in women’s basketball.”
But to play back-to-back games as a visitor?
“You’d like not to do that. If I had my ‘rathers’, I’d like not to do that. You’d rather not play back-to-back,” Carey said.
If West Virginia does win its first three games, it then would probably come against No. 1 seed in the region, Tennessee.
As hard as it is to believe, the scheduling didn’t bother Carey as much as the treatment they received on the ESPN Selection Show.
“There was a lot of things said that ruffled my feathers. That’s good, though. We’ll have some exciting practices,” he said. “It’s amazing. You’re a No. 2 seed and you go in the underdog. That’s amazing to me.”
Carey said he sensed as the show went on and they talked glowingly about so many other teams after just brushing his 29-4 West Virginia team aside that his team was becoming irritated.
“That’s OK. I want them fired up. I want them going in with a chip on their shoulder. I want them mad and I want them hungry. Evidently, we still have a lot to prove to the country.”
And Carey understands why that is.
“We have just not gone out and done well in the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, this is the year we will go out and do it,” he said.
Senior Christal Caldwell left little doubt that the team did feel slighted.
“We go into this with a chip on our shoulder and we want to beat whoever it is on their home floor in front of their crowd,” Caldwell said, speaking like someone who had a chip on her shoulder. “This team is hungry. We do not pay attention to our ranking or the number by our name. Anyone can get beat. We just have to go out and play basketball.”
The Mountaineers shared the Big 12 regular season title with Baylor to earn that No. 2 seed. Their previous high was No. 3 in 2010 when they were upset by No. 10 San Diego State.
Last season West Virginia lost to Delaware, playing on the Blue Hens’ home court.
WVU has now made the tournament five straight seasons and seven of the last eight. In but one of those years they won a first round game before losing, twice to No. 1 seeds.
This year’s NCAA tournament begins with first-round games Saturday and Sunday, followed by second-round games at the same sites Monday and Tuesday. The regional semifinals and finals are scheduled for Saturday through Tuesday of the following week and the Final Four is April 6-8 in Nashville.
NOTES: The Mountaineer Ticket Office will have tickets available for the West Virginia University women’s basketball NCAA tournament matchup with Albany (NY) on Sunday, March 23, in Baton Rouge, La., at 3 p.m. ET. Fans may purchase tickets beginning at 9 a.m., today, by calling 1-800-WVU GAME. Tickets will also be made available to WVU students with a valid I.D. at the Mountaineer Ticket Office in the WVU Coliseum. Student tickets must be purchased in person.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel