After a year in which the USC women's basketball team finished with a 19-12 overall record and a 12-6 mark in Pac-10 play, it seemed like a safe bet that the Women of Troy, under first year head coach Michael Cooper, would be extended an invitation to play in the NCAA Tournament later this month. Even women's college basketball prognosticator Charlie Creme had USC pegged as a No. 10 seed opening up against Wisconsin in the Kansas City Regional.
Nevertheless, when the selection committee announced the participants on Monday, Creme's predictions did not come to fruition for 'SC was not among the 64 teams selected to partake in the Big Dance. From ESPNLosAngeles.com:
"Boy, it hurts," USC coach Michael Cooper said after speaking with his team following the announcement. "I thought that we had done enough this year to definitely put us in the tournament.
"But, again, the committee says they saw something different."
While there is no question that they are bummed on missing the tournament, the larger question is why Cooper then turned down an invitation play in the WNIT, which was just extended to the program this afternoon. For a young team that could benefit from the experience, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Even Scott Wolf of all people raises some rather interesting points.
For several years now, USC's declined to participate in the women's basketball NIT. This seems odd year-after-year and even more so this season because with a young team that could use experience, a post-season tournament makes sense.
Not to mention that one of the reasons for building that nice, new arena on Figueroa is to actually stage events. But hey, what do I know?
Granted, the Women of Troy do lose some seniors to graduation, but they will return four of their top five scorers for next season, two of which are All-Pac-10 sophomores Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath. Because of that, wouldn't Cooper want to help these young players get some more game experience going into next season. At the very least, participating would give the four seniors on the roster a few more games to participate in before they careers come to a close.
Yes, there is always the financial argument, which suggests that maybe the program couldn't afford to participate in the tournament because of travel costs. But are we to believe that an airplane ride east or hosting a few games at Galen Center is going to break the basketball budget? I'm not buying it. That's too easy of a cop out for this program. In the end, Cooper's decision to turn down the invitation is plain and simply a puzzling decision that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.