By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Let us say, for a moment, that the subject today is not West Virginia University. Let’s say it’s Virginia … or Iowa … or even New Mexico.
Let’s say you have a team with the following resume:
• A 19-6 overall record.
• A 9-3 mark in the Big East.
• Seven wins in the last eight games, nine in the last 11, 12 of the last 15 and 16 of the last 20.
• A current five-game winning streak, the last three of them against ranked teams.
• A victory over the No. 2 team in the nation.
Do you think Virginia … or Iowa … or even New Mexico would be ranked in the nation’s Top 25?
Sure you do.
So why isn’t Mike Carey’s WVU women’s basketball team ranked with exactly that resume as it goes into the final stages of its season?
There are a couple of reasons, neither of which hold any credence at all. It starts with the fact that they were a preseason afterthought, a team that had graduated four of its starters, a team that had only senior, a reserve at that.
And the Mountaineers played a weak early schedule, which should count against you unless you happen to be a young team trying to find itself as WVU was.
In truth, it all didn’t come together until Carey began experimenting.
He turned to that when asked how this young team differed from coaching last year’s veteran-laden team.
“To see them grow as the season goes on,” he said. “We weren’t playing Asya (Bussie) and Yaya (Dunning) together. We tried that, and it has really worked out well. Everyone has bought in that our strength is our post, and if you’re not wide open or penetrating, get it into the post.”
That completely changed the way the team played. It began playing with an attitude, a physicality that comes by inside-out rather than by relying on jump shots from the perimeter for your offense.
“You have to give credit to the guards, too. They bought in. Our strength is our 4 and 5 players, so let’s continue to throw it into them.”
That veteran team from a year ago was 8-8 in the Big East. This team already has nine wins, and it comes because it grew out of being a deserved unranked team into being one of the better teams in the Big East with no one picking up on the development.
“We were 8-8 last year with a veteran team. We have nine wins now with this team and that’s great. It shows they bought in and are playing hard and paying attention in practice. The enthusiasm is really good,” Carey said.
Should they be ranked? That question was put to Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer or Rutgers after she lost to Carey’s team on Wednesday night.
“Coach does a great job, and I think they should be ranked every year because they are good and they always are. When they had (Sarah) Miles and (Liz) Repella, that is a group to be reckoned with. The same with Korinne Campbell, so I don’t know why that happens. I am sure coach doesn’t really care except when it becomes significant when placing for the NCAA tournament,” she said.
“Mike does a great job with the players that he has. and he is doing a great job. I was really impressed with them. and how could they not be ranked? I know that he is not worried about that because if they are foolish enough not to rank them then they will stun a lot of other people.”
Certainly, you will say, WVU has earned its place in the NCAA Tournament field already, but Carey won’t accept that.
“No,” he said when asked if he felt the Rutgers victory put him into the tournament. “We have four games left, and we have to win some more. We are not even ranked yet. Our RPI is still 42. Villanova had a losing record coming in to the Big East before the last game and their RPI was 30. We have to be careful there, and we have to continue to win. We are playing well now, so we need to continue to win.
“We have a big game here with DePaul. They put it on us last year. They put it on us with 20 some points at their place. I told the girls after the game that we have to have a little bit of revenge. We have to get fired up and get ready.“
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.