Lamar-West Virginia Preview
Before worrying about a potential disadvantage in the second round of the NCAA tournament, 10th-ranked West Virginia might want to focus on taking care of its first opponent.
Coming off a record-setting regular season, the third-seeded Mountaineers face 14th seed Lamar on Sunday night in Austin, Texas.
After setting a school record for wins and earning its highest NCAA tournament seed, West Virginia (28-5) was assigned to Austin where it could face sixth-seeded and 17th-ranked Texas on its home floor Tuesday.
"I figured that we would be a No. 3 seed, but I am very disappointed that we may have to play a team on their home court," coach Mike Carey told the Mountaineers' official Web site. "Of course we have to win the first game first. We have to get by Lamar."
Despite being favored to advance to the second round, Carey's squad can't afford to look ahead and potentially waste a strong regular-season effort after failing to reach the 2009 NCAA tournament. West Virginia is making its sixth tourney appearance and third in four seasons.
"We're down here to win two games," said junior guard Liz Repella, averaging a team-leading 13.8 points. "We're going to focus on Lamar first. We're just looking at it as two basketball games, and we need to win them."
West Virginia tied for second in the Big East and lost to No. 1 Connecticut in the conference tournament final. UConn coach Gino Auriemma was impressed by a West Virginia team that allowed 51.8 points per game this season.
"I wouldn't want to play them in the NCAA tournament," Auriemma said even after UConn's 60-32 rout of the Mountaineers in the Big East title game March 9.
Lamar (26-7) might feel the same way. Out of the Southland Conference, the Cardinals return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since reaching the regional finals in 1991. They'll play some 250 miles west of their Beaumont, Texas campus.
"We're excited to be going," senior guard Ashley Crawford said. "It's going to be a great experience."
Junior guard Jenna Plumley has the talent to make it a special experience if she can carry the Cardinals to an upset. A former starter in two years at Oklahoma, Plumley has revived her career since leaving the Sooners after she was suspended for shoplifting.
The Southland player of the year, Plumley averaged 14.4 points and 6.7 assists in her first season at Lamar. She also hit a conference-record 107 3-pointers and broke the school mark for assists with 220.
"She's a very good player," said West Virginia point guard Sarah Miles, who'll be in charge of trying to stop Plumley. "She can shoot. She can dribble. She basically is the team's offense. So, I mean, I'm just going to go out and play defense on her like I would any other point guard."
While West Virginia's collective NCAA tournament experience consists of three players having appeared in four games, Plumley averaged 10.0 points in five tournament contests for the Sooners.