Upstate Earns WBI Bid, Plays at Elon Thursday
Spartanburg, S.C. – Two weeks after ending the regular season with a 17-12 record and its second-straight third-place finish in the A-Sun standings, the USC Upstate women's basketball team will extend its season after earning its first national postseason tournament berth as part of the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI). The 16-team tournament field was announced Monday evening and the Spartans will travel to Burlington, N.C., to play at Elon Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. in the first round.
The women's basketball team is the first Upstate team to earn a national postseason tournament berth since moving to NCAA Division I in 2007-08. Upstate is currently in its final year of provisional status in its transition from Division II to Division I and is ineligible to participate in the NCAA Tournament until next year.
Upstate will be the No. 6 seed in the East bracket, while Elon is the No. 3 seed. Elon stands 19-12 on the season after advancing to the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament. The 19 wins tied the 2002-03 squad for the most wins in Elon's Division I era. The Phoenix finished fourth in the SoCon regular season standings with a 12-8 overall record. Ali Ford tops the club and ranks fourth in the conference in scoring at 16.5 points per game, while Kelsey Evans tops the league with 9.2 rebounds per outing. The Phoenix average 67.5 points per game as the SoCon's second-leading scoring team.
The WBI is a 16-team tournament giving teams worthy of postseason play the opportunity to extend its season after not being selected to play in the NCAA Tournament and is in its second year of existence. In 2010, Appalachian State claimed the first WBI Championship with a 79-71 victory over Memphis.
Wright State is the No. 1 seed in the East Region and will host No. 8 Buffalo. Alabama-Birmingham is the No. 2 seed and will play at No. 7 Central Arkansas. Elon is the No. 3 seed and hosts No. 6 seed Upstate. Sacred Heart is the No. 4 seed and will play at No. 5 seed Manhattan.
In the West Region, Cleveland State is the No. 1 seed and will play at No. 8 IPFW. Idaho is the No. 2 seed and will play at No. 7 seed South Dakota. Cal State-Bakersfield is the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 seed Northern Colorado. Eastern Illinois is the No. 4 seed and will host No. 5 seed Chicago State.
The first round games will be played on March 16-17 with second round games taking place March 19-20. The semifinals games will be played on March 23 or 24 with the championship game to be played at the site of the highest rated remaining team in the RPI, tentatively scheduled for either March 26 or 27.
Upstate boasts one of the top up and coming mid-major programs in the country under head coach Tammy George. George, in her sixth season at the helm of the Spartan program, is the all-time winningest coach at Upstate with 81 wins. She led the Spartans to an appearance in the 2006 NCAA Division II Tournament in her first year at Upstate. The program has made tremendous strides in its four seasons playing on the Division I level and in the A-Sun, winning 37 games in the last two years alone.
Upstate also boasts one of the top players in the region in post player Chelsea McMillan. McMillan, a senior from East Gadsden, Fla., was named the A-Sun Player of the Year after averaging a double-double with 18.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. She topped the league in rebounds, ranked second in scoring and blocked shots, and ranked among the league leaders in a total of eight statistical categories.
In addition to her standing in the A-Sun, McMillan has also gained notoriety in the nation. She ranks 35th in the nation in scoring, sixth in rebounding and ninth with 18 double-doubles. She currently ranks seventh all-time at Upstate with 1,288 points and fourth with 875 rebounds, despite playing just three years as a Spartan after transferring to Upstate after playing her freshman season at Santa Fe Community College in Florida.
Upstate also boasts another marquee player in Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C.). The 2010 A-Sun Freshman of the Year, Copney earned second team all-conference honors after ranking fourth in the A-Sun in scoring at 14.9 points per game. She ranked among the A-Sun leaders in six categories. Just a sophomore, she has already put her name on a few career statistical lists at Upstate. She ranks 18th in scoring with 752 points and seventh with 101 three-pointers made.