"It's probably the first year I've been here that we felt we'd have an opportunity to compete in the Big East tournament," Carey noted. "We are looking forward to it and hope we can win some games."
By "compete" Carey means "play hard" and "have a chance to win" - something that WVU didn't always do in previous seasons.
"I think we are focused," the Mountaineers' mentor said. "I was disappointed in our last two games - against Miami and against UConn, we just didn't compete. We have to get by that. We have to compete against St. John's. I think we are going to be ready to play, though. If we do that and play our style, we should be ok."
Carey credits the experience of his guards as one of the primary reasons for West Virginia's move up the conference ladder this year.
"We have three ladies who have been starting together for three years," Carey said, speaking of Kate Bulger, Yolanda Paige and Sherell Sowho. "They have some experience together."
Carey will be trying to shore up his defense, which has struggled over the past few games. Although increased quality of opposition has something to do with that, Carey thinks that his team, which often has guards playing interior post defense, simply has to be tough.
"We were getting away with playing the guards inside, and we did a good job against Rutgers," Carey said of his height-challenged squad. "But lately when we have been helping inside, teams like UConn have been hitting their three-pointers. We're hoping to be able to help down inside some, but if they are hitting outside, we can't do that. We'll have to get tougher in the post, and get physical."
Carey thinks he'll be seeing a different St. John's team than the one the Mountaineers defeated by two points on the road back in January.
"They have Angie Clark inside and they have some hieght that created some problems for us. We did not play well at all the first half," Carey said of the first encounter. "They didn't shoot well, so that helped us get the win. They are much improved from that first game, and our win doesn't mean much now going into the ournament. We'll have to contend with their post players, and we have to get rebounds, because if we don't, we aren't going to beat anyone."
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"I'd be very surprised if she is not the rookie of the year," Carey said of freshman standout Meg Bulger, who has been one of the big reason's for West Virginia's improved play this year. "She is one person that competed against UConn. She ended up with 21 points, and I was impressed with the way she handled the big crowd and the environment there. She went right at them. She is one of the main reasons we have moved up in the Big East and are where we are right now."
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Carey obviously wasn't pleased with WVU's scedule at the end of the season, which put the Mountaineers on the road for three of their last four games and included a pair of lengthy trips. WVU hosted Rutgers, then flew to Miami, then had just one day at home after returning before travelling to Connecticut. WVU now has to return to the Nutmeg State just four days later, which leads to some conerns about road-weariness.
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Carey knows that his team has to win games in the conference tournament in order to get consideration for an NCAA berth. WVU has an RPI of 58 as of Wednesday. The Mountaineers have two wins over RPI Top 25 teams and another over a Top 50 squad, but those are offset by three losses to teams outside the top 100.
"I think we have to win one and possibly two to get in the NCAA. If we lose the first we won't be in it."