The 2011-2012 high school and college basketball post season was an exciting one for me. Several of our local high school teams did very well at the state tournament. Then, I was presented the opportunity to follow the WVU women's basketball team to the NCAA tournament. The word "yes" left my mouth before I could even think about it.
The first leg of the trip was the drive. It wasn't exactly easy. From Clarksburg I sent through Elkins on 250 and stayed on that road all the way to Charlottesville, Va. What was it like? Mountains. Mountains. Mountains. I'm from Elkins. I'm used to mountains. Still, that was a lot of mountains. From there on it's pretty much all interstate which makes it a relatively easy drive. I didn't hit traffic so I arrived in Norfolk at a descent hour and was very pleased to see that the venue was right beside the media hotel.
Truth be told, the NCAA made the trip easy for me. When it comes to the tournament, everything, and I mean everything, is scheduled. If a press conference is set to start at 2:00p.m., it starts at 2:00p.m. If the student-athletes are only scheduled to be in the press conference for seven minute, they are gone at the seven minute mark. There was also a good bit of other media in Norfolk so there were always a variety of questions asked at press conferences.
I knew that if the Mountaineers won the first game I would be allowed to stay through the second game. Needless to say, I had my fingers crossed for a win against Texas from the moment I got in the car in Clarksburg. Having followed college sports my whole life it was pretty cool to see the famous Texas orange just steps away from me on the court. The WVU women's basketball team is young, but talented and it was relatively easy for the Mountaineers to beat the Longhorns.
Yes! I got to stay through the next round.
The days leading up to the Stanford game were definitely different from the ones before the Texas game. It was apparent that WVU knew they had a very good chance of beating Texas, even though that game was a No. 8 vs No. 9 seed matchup. That was not the feeling before the game against the Cardinals. Stanford women's basketball has a rich tradition of winning. The WVU women knew that. Still, the Mountaineers put up a good fight.
Stanford got the lead early, but it never really got out of hand and WVU kept the Cardinals to within about a five point spread for most of the game. It was very telling of what a storied program looks like but also a good glimpse into the Mountaineer's future. The WVU women's basketball team graduates just one senior. Stanford Head Coach Tara Vanderveer also complimented WVU Head Coach Mike Carey on what he's been able to do with the program.
Covering the WVU women's basketball team at the NCAA tournament was a great experience. It's a whole different ball game from covering games at the Coliseum and definitely valuable learning experience for a young sports reporter like me.