Albany (NY)-West Virginia Preview
For all West Virginia has accomplished this season, coach Mike Carey appears more concerned with what the Mountaineers have not done.
Before WVU can begin to establish a reputation among the nation's elite women's basketball programs, it needs a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Seeded second in the Louisville region, the Mountaineers open play Sunday afternoon against No. 15 seed Albany.
''We still don't get a lot of respect throughout the country,'' Carey said before practice on Saturday. ''Our girls are hungry. They understand that we have a lot to prove, and we haven't proved anything yet. This tournament is very important.''
In only its second season in the Big 12 - which includes women's basketball powers Texas A&M and Baylor - WVU won the league's regular season title and was riding a 12-game winning streak before losing to Baylor in the conference tournament title game.
WVU is in its school-record fifth straight tournament, and seventh in the last eight years under Carey, but the Mountaineers have never made it past the second round, going 7-9 all-time.
This season, the Mountaineers had four players averaging better than 10 points per game, led by sophomore guard Bria Holmes (15.1), six players with at least 40 assists and broke the previous school record of 26 victories. They also have their highest NCAA seeding ever. That means the expectations have never been higher.
''We haven't done anything in the NCAAs, and that's been under me,'' Carey said. ''We've got a lot to prove. Our young ladies, they've played extremely well and hard and the whole thing, but we have some goals going forward here.''
West Virginia has a stingy defense, holding opponents to 58.4 points per game on 35.7 percent shooting.
Albany (28-4) won the America East regular season and conference tournament titles and nearly ran the table in conference play. The Great Danes didn't play a very challenging schedule and were routed 80-51 by Duke in their only game against a ranked team this season.
''We're the underdog, so we really don't have anything to lose,'' said Shereesha Richards, who averages team highs of 20.3 points and 9.0 rebounds. ''We want to show West Virginia that we're not just another team who's not going to come out and fight.''
New Zealand native and 6-foot-9 center Megan Craig contributes 12.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and also anchors an Albany defense that ranks fifth in the nation in 54.6 points per game.
The winner of this game will play either host and No. 7 seed LSU or 10th-seeded Georgia Tech in the second round Tuesday.