Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Musketeers gearing up for an extended postseason stay

A-10 women's tournament preview

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Xavier women's basketball team leaves Wednesday for Rhode Island, where it could play up to two games in the Atlantic 10 Tournament Friday and Saturday.

But the Musketeers hope to bring the A-10 Championships back to Cincinnati on Monday.

Beginning Thursday, the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I., will host the opening, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. The championship game will be Monday at the highest remaining seed's campus.

"This is the first year for this set-up, so it'll be interesting to see how it works," XU coach Kevin McGuff said. "I think they're moving the final game to get some more excitement for the home team."

Xavier (19-8, 11-5 A-10) finished second in the conference's West Division and clinched a first-round tournament bye. It plays either La Salle or Massachusetts Friday at 6 p.m.

A Cincinnati homecoming hinges on Xavier wins and a little seeding luck. St. Joseph's, the East Division's No. 1 seed, plays in Xavier's bracket. George Washington, the West Division's No. 1 seed, is in the opposite bracket.

So if Xavier wins A-10 quarterfinal and semifinal games - and plays any team besides George Washington in the finals - Cintas Center will be the title game's site.

McGuff and company are looking no further than Friday.

"We're honestly just focused on our first game. We are a good team when we prepare ourselves mentally, but we don't want to look too far ahead," McGuff said.

Xavier beat La Salle (14-13, 6-10) twice in the regular season, 73-54 on Jan. 12 and 65-56 on Feb. 15. Xavier beat Massachusetts (14-13, 6-10) 77-65 on Jan. 24.

The Musketeers are mounting a bid for their first NCAA Tournament invite in two years. In collegerpi.com's projected tournament brackets, Xavier is seeded ninth. Their RPI is 34.

XU's senior backcourt, Reetta Piipari and Amy Waugh, will be the difference in the A-10 Tournament and beyond. Waugh leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring with 18.7 points a game. She has more 3-pointers (95) than three A-10 teams. Piipari scores 14.1 points a game and dishes out 5.2 assists.

Freshman forward Tara Boothe, the A-10 Rookie of the Week for nine straight weeks, dominates Xavier's inside game. The Highlands grad contributes 16 points and 8 rebounds a game.


E-mail srussell@enquirer.com

Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals


Matchup: Xavier vs. La Salle or Massachusetts, 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Kingston, R.I.

TV/Radio: None

Semifinals: Saturday, 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., Kingston, R.I. (TV: Fox Sports Net)

Championship: Monday, 5 p.m. TBA (TV: ESPN2)

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