The West Virginia women ensured that Division I basketball isn't quite finished in the Mountain State on Monday as the Mountaineers earned an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.WVU was seeded No. 11 in the Bridgeport Region and will face off with No. 6 Delaware in Newark, Del., at 12:15 p.m. Sunday."They're really excited," West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. "They were down in the team theater watching it. They are all excited and pumped up. We're excited. This was a long year. We had three girls go down with ACLs and playing in a new league and that type of stuff, so I'm very proud of them for us to make it to the NCAAs this year."The Mountaineers finished the season 17-13 and 9-9 in its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference. West Virginia fell in the league quarterfinals to Oklahoma after blowing a 19-point halftime lead.
West Virginia also dropped each of its last three games including a 31-point home loss to No. 1 Baylor. The Bears are the defending national champions.WVU was thought to be on the bubble entering Monday night but was one of the last four in, giving the Big 12 seven teams in the tournament for the fourth year in a row and seventh time overall.Carey said the strength of the conference may have been a contributing factor."I felt we were .500 in the No. 1-RPI league in the country and the NCAA more than likely was at least going to take five teams out of the Big 12, or six teams out of the Big 12," Carey said. "I just felt that was going to be done. Now you never know, so we're extremely pleased and happy."
The Blue Hens enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country after winning 25 straight games, capturing the Colonial Athletic Association's regular season and tournament championships. Delaware finished 18-0 in the league and defeated Drexel 59-56 in the CAA championship game.Delaware also features one of the country's premier players in 6-foot-5 forward Elena Delle Donne, who averages 25.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. She owns school records in total points (2,258), scoring average (26.9 points per game), 3-point percentage (39.6), free-throw percentage (90.7), and blocks (204) among others.She was the most highly touted recruit since Candace Parker coming out of Ursuline Academy in Delaware in 2008, but dropped out of Connecticut after just two days, citing burnout.Delle Donne instead started playing volleyball for Delaware during the 2008-2009 season before returning to basketball the following year.She has been a force ever since, winning the CAA player of the year award three times and was a unanimous selection to the preseason AP All-America team."She is a big-time player, needless to say," Carey said. "Some of their other players are very good so you can't just concentrate on her and let the other players have a career night. We're going to have to be aware of where she is at and try to do a good job on her, but also do a good job on the rest of them."The winner will meet the No. 3 North Carolina-No. 14 Albany, N.Y., victor on Tuesday, March 26.
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