(Reminder: Plenty of time left to enter the blog’s bracket challenge. Group name is “From a bracket standpoint…” and password is “necktie.)
Back at the end of February we were talking about how Mike Carey was at it again, coaching a team through injuries and beyond expectations in a tough league, and I joked that WVU was again bound for the NCAA Tournament and “I just can’t wait to see the selection show when they’re the No. 10 seed in College Park with a second-round date against Maryland.”
I said that because the NCAA Tournament had, repeatedly, asked Carey’s team to travel really far and play either the first- or second-round game on the opponent’s home floor.
It happened again Monday when WVU was picked as a No. 11 seed and made to play No. 6 seed Delaware and the nation’s second leading scorer, Elena Della Donne, at the University of Delaware Sunday.
“It is good we got in. To me that says the strength of the league, our reputation and some of the wins we had on the road; we’re happy to be in,” coach Mike Carey said. “We got a really good draw. We have to play on Delaware’s home floor and that’s a good draw for us because it’s close so hopefully we can get some fans there.”
This is Carey’s seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and the sixth in seven years. He’s very good. But this is the fifth time since the beginning of his string of appearances in 2004 that he’s been a visitor early in the tournament.
Now, the women’s tournament is different, of course. The sport isn’t popular enough to rent out big arenas and rely on large crowds for neutral sites. Hell, the men’s event doesn’t even do that adequately.
The women’s event instead visits campus in areas where the game is important to the population. I mean, how else does St. John’s, a No. 10 seed, get a home game?
Yet there are 16 sites for the first and second round and in many years there’s a good chance you’ll have a team playing a home game at every site. It doesn’t always happen that way. There have even been two exceptions during Carey’s time at WVU. Last season, the Mountaineers played Texas and then Stanford in Norfolk, Va. Who had the advantage there?
But it always seems to happen to Carey. And beyond that, his teams aren’t bad teams. It’s one thing to be a No. 8 or No. 9 seed and play the No. 1 seed in the second round, like the Mountaineers did against Baylor in 2011.
In 2010, though, he had a No. 3 seed and would have played No. 6 seed Texas in the second round, but the Longhorns lost their opener in an upset. Two years before that, Carey was a No. 5 seed and played No. 12 seed New Mexico in The Pit.
The weird part here is this is as close to home as WVU has played a road game this season!