By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Mike Carey, the most successful head coach in the history of West Virginia University women’s basketball program, has his team in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in his 12 years at the helm.
The Mountaineers are in Newark, Del., today winding up preparations for Sunday’s 12:15 p.m. clash with the favored University of Delaware in the 2013 tournament’s first round. ESPN2 will televise the contest.
West Virginia (17-13, 9-9 in the Big 12) is seeded No. 11 and Delaware (30-3 overall) is the No. 6 seed. The Blue Hens are nationally ranked 15th in The Associated Press poll and 16th in the USA Today poll.
The winner of Sunday’s game will advance to the second round against the North Carolina-Albany game winner at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
All games in the Delaware Regional will be played in Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center, that team’s home court.
Christal Caldwell, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, is the Mountaineers’ leading scorer with an average of 13.2 points per game. Ayana Dunning, 6-foot-3 senior center, is the team’s top rebounder with a 6.1 average per game to go with a 10.0 scoring gait.
Taylor Palmer, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, ranks third in scoring at 9.8 ppg.
WVU leads the short series in the current decade with Delaware by a 2-1 margin.
Carey, a native of Clarksburg, owns a record of 244-148 for his outstanding 12 years in Morgantown. He took over here after serving as head men’s basketball coach at Salem College, his alma mater, for 13 years, and being equally successful.
Carey, a four-year letterman as a player at Salem College from 1977-80, has an overall record of 532-242 for his 25-year head coaching career.
The players I’ve interviewed all have said he is a “tough coach” but a gentleman for whom they enjoy playing basketball very much.
The women’s team finished the regular season with a winning record, despite the loss of three key players to injuries — including a standout veteran on the second day of practice.
His achievements are both numerous and most impressive, including a school-record 29 victories in 2009-10 and the highest national rankings in the program’s history.
Other highlights include the most Big East wins ever by WVU, seven 21-win seasons and as many NCAA berths, and more than 20 wins over nationally ranked opponents.
In 11 seasons of fierce competition in the Big East, Carey was honored twice as that conference’s Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year. He holds the biggest winning percentage of any head coach in the program’s history and reached 200 wins earlier than any of his predecessors.