Monday, March 15, 2004
Exclusion disappoints Louisville
DePaul, Marquette in despite lower finishes than Cardinals
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE - Louisville guard Kim Graham scratched her head. Teammate Sara Nord sat in stunned silence and sobbed. Another player vowed to write a letter to complain.
The entire Louisville women's team gathered at a local restaurant for what it hoped would be a celebration of its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2001.
Instead, Louisville was left out of the field despite winning nine of its last 10 games and finishing 20-9.
The Cardinals also went 11-3 in Conference USA, tying TCU for second place and finishing ahead of DePaul and Marquette. They also beat eventual league champion Houston in Texas on Jan. 25. Houston, TCU, DePaul and Marquette all made the NCAA Tournament.
The Cardinals ranked 39th in the final Ratings Percentage Index, a formula used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee to seed teams. Utah, at No. 38, was the only team ranked higher than Louisville that did not receive an at-large bid. Seven teams below Louisville in the RPI received NCAA berths.
After the brackets were unveiled, first-year coach Tom Collen spoke to his stunned team for 10 minutes, then protested how it could've been left out.
"I'm very disappointed," Collen said. "It's pretty difficult for me to understand the reasoning of the committee."
Nord struggled to hold back her frustration.
"I really wish I could say what I feel," Nord said, "but I don't think that would be a good thing to do."
Nord was a freshman when the Cardinals reached the NCAA Tournament in 2001. The program collapsed over the next two seasons, ending with coach Martin Clapp's resignation in 2003.
Nord didn't have high hopes entering this season, but after the Cardinals beat Houston, she suddenly saw the NCAA as a realistic goal.
"I really wanted to go this year," Nord said. "I thought we were in."
Collen expected a bid to the NIT later Sunday night.
"It's my responsibility to teach these kids to fight back and fight through adversity and fight through disappointment," he said. "And that's what we're going to do."
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