Marshall Opponents Well Represented In Post-Season

Marshall men's and women's teams came up short on making the post-season for 2004, but Herd opponents were well represented on the "Dance Cards" for the NCAA Men's and Women's Tournaments, as well as the National Invitational Tournaments. Herd fans hope next season will be a breakthrough year for the two Herd programs who have not been to post-season for a few years (seven for the women since the last NCAA appearance; 16 for the men since the NIT in 1988, 17 for the NCAA in 1987).

First, out of the Mid-American Conference on the men's side (where Marshall finished 12-17), Western Michigan (26-4) wins the league and is a number 11 seed in the NCAA "Big Dance", taking on number six Vanderbilt in Orlando, Florida, on Friday. Making the NIT Field were: Toledo (20-10), who plays at Marquette on Monday at 8:00 p.m. in the First Round; and Kent State (22-8), who will host another MU opponent-the West Virginia Mountaineers (15-13), Wednesday, at 7:00 p.m. in the Opening Round of the NIT at the MAC Center in Kent, Ohio (Welcome to a MAC Road Trip, Mountaineers!).

Other MU men's opponents making the field of 65 in the NCAA Tournament include a nine seeded UAB (20-9) team that Marshall beat 68-66 in Birmingham on December 30, 2003, that will have to play number eight Washington in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday. Also in Columbus on Friday will be the number one seed of the NCAA Tournament, the Kentucky Wildcats (26-4), who beat MU by only 13 in Cincinnati in December, 89-76, when Ronnie Dawn hit 7-of-9 threes against the 'Cats. Also, in the NIT, is Oregon, who duck-walked over Marshall, 90-61, in Portland on December 6th and who will host Colorado in the First Round of the NIT, on Wednesday at Midnight-Eastern time. Oregon will return to play Marshall in the Charleston Civic Center in December of 2004.

On the women's side (where MU finished 18-12, the first winning record since 1996-97), Eastern Michigan (22-7) won the MAC by beating MU in the semi-finals by five points, 75-70, (after splitting the season series with each winning at home) and topping BGSU in the finals. If the Eagles, a 14 seed, can get past number three Boston College, they might run into another former Marshall opponent, the Mountaineers of WVU (21-10), who beat Marshall 79-53 in Charleston on January 21. WVU is an 11 seed but must face the home team in Columbus, Ohio, in the Buckeyes of Ohio State (20-9), who are an six seed. Austin Peay (23-7), champs of the Ohio Valley Conference, beat MU by three in December and take a number 13 seed into their match in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, against the number four seed, LSU.

In the Women's National Invitational Tournament, or WNIT, three Marshall opponents from the MAC will play in the first round but all will be on the road. On Wednesday, Miami (19-11) was the number one seed in the MAC Tournament but was upset in the semi-finals by Bowling Green. The RedHawks will take the short trip from Oxford to Cincinnati to face Xavier. On Thursday, Western Michigan (17-12), who lost in the quarterfinals to BGSU in Cleveland at the MAC tourney, will travel to Louisville to face the Cardinals of Conference USA. Finally, on Friday, Kent State (19-9), who MU beat in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament in Gund Arena last Wednesday, will travel to St. Joseph's to face the 20-win Hawks.

As far as the Conference USA membership Marshall will join in 2005 when the Herd leaves the MAC, C-USA's remaining and definite new members are numerous in the NCAA and NIT. At the top of the list on the men's side is Memphis (21-7), a number seven seed who will face South Carolina on Friday in Kansas City. UAB, as previously mentioned, is a nine seed. New member in 2005, UCF (25-5), is in as a 14 seed out of the Atlantic Sun Conference and plays a fired-up number three seed in Pittsburgh, who was expected to be a one or two before losing to UConn in the Big East finals. Also, Rice, who will also join the league in 2005 out of the Western Athletic Conference, is in the NIT Wednesday at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Possible new members include NIT participant Toledo, NCAA tourney team Western Michigan, Temple (versus Rutgers in NIT) and Troy State (verses Niagara in NIT), while possible newby UTEP (24-7)is a 13 seed in the NCAA out of the WAC and will face Maryland.

On the women's side, the new C-USA is will still have a power team and that is Houston. The Cougars (27-3) are nationally ranked, drawing a number three seed and will face number 14 Wisconsin-Green Bay in Santa Barbara, California, on Saturday. Possible new member Temple (21-9) is a number 11 seed and faces the team forcing Conference USA to look around for new members, TCU (24-8, a six seed), who will move to the Mountain West Conference in 2005.

Both Tulsa (19-11) and Rice (21-9) will join the Herd, UCF and SMU in C-USA in 2005, and will play in the WNIT (which Marshall participated in the first-ever, back in 1972 when the Herd was 21-1 and traveled to Cullowhee, North Carolina, to play in the WNIT at Western Carolina University's tiny Reed Gymnasium, in the days of Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, or AIAW, membership for MU women's sports teams in the early days of the 1970's. The NCAA did not manage women's athletics until 1982). The Golden Hurricane from TU, currently in the WAC along with Rice, travels to staying member Memphis on Friday, while Rice will play at Arkansas State on Thursday.

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