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Mike Vandermause column: UWGB takes seeding snub in stride

10:58 PM, Mar. 22, 2013  |  Comments
UWGB women's basketball team leaves for NCAA tourn...
UWGB women's basketball team leaves for NCAA tourn...: The UW-Green Bay women's basketball team left for Baton Rouge, La., on Friday, March 22, 2013. The Phoenix plays LSU in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
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Don't feel sorry for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women's basketball team.

Despite getting royally shafted by the NCAA tournament committee, which handed UWGB a lowly No. 11 seed and a game on the home court of first-round opponent LSU, the Phoenix players refuse to complain.

They won't even admit to being upset by the NCAA's obvious snub.

"Life's not fair I guess," said UWGB senior Adrian Ritchie with a shrug.

The Phoenix produced a sparkling 29-2 record and is ranked No. 20 in the country, according to both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls. Yet in the eyes of the NCAA committee, UWGB is no better than the 41st-best team in the tournament based on its seeding.

"To be honest with you, I was surprised but I'm not surprised," said UWGB coach Kevin Borseth. "Does that make sense?"

Trying to make sense of the NCAA tournament committee's logic seems futile.

Year after year the UWGB women churn out spectacular seasons only to be handed the short end of the stick when the time comes to receive proper placement in the NCAA tournament.

Never mind that UWGB has out-performed its seeding in each of the past three NCAA tournaments.

Never mind what the polls or RPI ratings say.

Never mind that UWGB has won four NCAA tournament games since 2010, earned one Sweet 16 appearance and narrowly missed out on two others.

Never mind that so-called power conference teams want nothing to do with playing the Phoenix in nonconference games.

The committee ignores all those factors and instead puts undue emphasis on UWGB's relatively weak schedule.

Borseth said he doesn't know exactly how the NCAA tournament committee goes about its business. "It's like the conclave, you don't know what's going on inside of there," he said.

But he surmises the committee looks closely at how many victories a team posts against top-25 or top-50 competition.

"That's a pretty big part of the formula that they utilize," said Borseth.

It will become increasingly difficult for UWGB to schedule top-tier opponents, according to Borseth, with the emergence of more mega-conferences.

"What are our chances to even be able to play those schools because as those conferences get bigger, they're going to have a lot more conference games," said Borseth, "maybe not leaving room for nonconference games which really we have to feed on."

One of the few ways UWGB can build its resume in future years will be to participate in early-season tournaments that include high-quality opponents. Even then, there's no guarantee the NCAA committee will take its blinders off and view the Phoenix in the proper light.

That's why UWGB players this week chose to focus on preparing for LSU, rather than complaining about the injustice of their seeding.

"It's just that wasted energy of worrying and stress that you don't need," said senior Sarah Eichler.

"No matter what that number is (seeding), we're going to go out and we're going to play Green Bay basketball in front of the entire nation."

The Phoenix players are accustomed to getting disrespected and know that griping about it does no good. They prefer to do their talking on the basketball court.

"It's OK with us," said Ritchie. "We're looking forward to the opportunity to prove people wrong. We've always been good being the underdogs and accepting the doubters thinking that Green Bay can only be as good as a mid-major. But we know what we're capable of."

The same can't be said for the NCAA tournament committee, which has no idea how good UWGB is.

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