At least one group of folks on the CSU campus isn’t very happy with the NCAA Tournament this week.
The CSU women’s basketball team enjoys the excitement of March Madness, mind you. It’s just that they’ll be using the fact they aren’t in this year’s tournament as motivation for their new focus, the Women’s National Invitation
“We’re kinda feeling like the NCAA made a mistake,” said Ashley Augspurger, the Rams’ senior forward. “The best way to prove them wrong is to go out and win the whole thing and that’s kind of everybody’s mindset.”
Overlooked by the NCAA selection committee on Sunday, the Rams now will host a first round game of the WNIT on Friday night at Moby Arena against Montana State.
Though their focus is turning to the Bobcats, being slighted by the NCAA Tournament still weighs on the Rams’ minds.
“I don’t think the committee did a very good job,” said Rams head coach Chris Denker. “They left a team or two out that deserved to be in and some of the teams that got in didn’t have the criteria they supposedly look for – Miami,
Florida and Michigan State in particular.”
Denker and the Rams (18-12) have good reason to be upset with the Hurricanes’ and Spartans’ inclusion over the Rams – a decision which surprised many college basketball experts on Sunday.
The Hurricanes, at 18-12, finished the season with a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of 67, sixteen spots behind CSU, which was ranked 51. Michigan State, with a 17-11 mark, was also below the Rams at 57.
Strength of schedule also didn’t play into the Rams’ favor. CSU’s schedule ranked as the 35th hardest in the country, far higher than either Miami (85) or Michigan State (64).
“We were really disappointed not to hear our names called,” said Katie Borton, another of the Rams’ five seniors. “It’s hard, but we get to keep playing so we’re moving forward.”
The Rams began preparations today for hosting Montana State in the WNIT’s first round. The Bobcats are coming off their second straight regular season Big Sky Conference championship, but fell in the championship game of the conference tournament to Weber State, 63-52.
The WNIT berth is the first for the Bobcats since 1988, while the Rams last went to the WNIT in 2000, when they won three games at Moby Arena before falling at Wisconsin in the tournament semifinals.
“We’re definitely happy to be playing at home,” Denker said. “Montana State is a talented team; we’ll have to be ready for them. But playing here is a good advantage for us.”
Asked if he was worried the CSU men’s team might take some of the Rams’ fan base to Salt Lake City for their Thursday night duel with Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Denker wasn’t concerned about a possible attendance drop.
“I don’t think we have necessarily the same fan base,” Denker said of his program versus the men’s program. “If some folks decide to stay the whole weekend out in Salt Lake for the regional, then we might lose some fans. But because it’s the WNIT, we should draw a good number of fans.”