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West Virginia loads regional

| Thursday, March 11, 2004

How good is the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference?

If you look at the field for the NCAA Division II Eastern Regional which starts Friday at California University's Hamer Hall, the answer is very good.

Half of the eight women's basketball teams play in the WVIAC.

The quartet includes Glenville State (27-3), West Liberty State (26-4), West Virginia State (22-8) and Charleston (23-7).

Rounding out the field are host California (29-1) from the PSAC, South Carolina's Anderson (24-6) and North Carolina's Barton (23-5) from the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference and independent Pitt-Johnstown (22-5).

If you looked closely, the only thing the eight teams had in common was more than 20 victories.

While California was the only one of the 14 PSAC schools to get in the 20-win column, five of the 15 WVIAC members had at least 21 wins.

The number of wins, however, may not be a true measuring stick. Ask coaches like California's Darcie Vincent or Shippensburg's Kristy Trn, for instance.

"The West Virginia schools use a rotating schedule and don't have to play each other at least twice and possibly three times counting the playoffs, as is the case in the PSAC," noted Vincent. "It's really difficult to find 20 wins in a season when you play in the PSAC.

"People will start playing the numbers game, which isn't fair when you have to face teams like Shippensburg, Clarion, Edinboro and Indiana twice," she added. "There's something wrong when only one PSAC school gets in the regional. We have to find a solution. We won't know until Monday night which conference is stronger."

Trn, whose 19-win Shippensburg team was left out of the tourney despite handing California its lone loss of the season, knows.

n From top to bottom the PSAC is much stronger," said Trn. "What hurt us this year was the East teams were not as strong as in the past. I still think our last place team in the West would beat most of the West Virginia schools."

A good case in point was oft-beaten Indiana (14-12) winning at Charleston, 70-66, early in the season. The Indians finished sixth in the West with a 4-8 record.

Glenville State was the lone WVIAC playoff team to play more than one PSAC entry, going 3-0 with wins over Shippensburg (78-53), West Chester (78-61) and Millersville (61-54).

West Liberty State showed an 86-74 win over East Stroudsburg. West Virginia State didn't play any PSAC schools.

Charleston coach Sherry Winn, whose club faces the Vulcans in the opening game, thinks the WVIAC is closing the gap.

"In the last three or four years the West Virginia teams have increased the level of play," she said. "Our teams are really competitive."

In the next 96 hours, we'll find out.

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