With South Carolina’s Sunday victory over Iowa, the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament has officially come and gone.

West Virginia’s second round matchup against NCAA all-time leading scorer Caitlin Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes was one buried by the later postseason excitement that followed, but WVU’s trademark defense and an officiating controversy earned it one of the hotter storylines of the tournament.

In another universe, though, that game may have never happened. WVU head coach Mark Kellogg, despite sharing pregame confidence against the region’s top seed, certainly thought his 24-7 team earned a better postseason position.

“That wasn’t really the seed maybe that some people in the room were expecting, not even from me necessarily,” Kellogg said when addressing his fiery response to the bracket structure that projected WVU to play Iowa in round two.

Considering the Mountaineers’ near-upset against the eventual national runners-up, Kellogg’s confusion seems warranted. The season’s final AP top 25 poll, which had WVU at No. 24 above sixth-seeded Louisville, agreed in some regard.

Based primarily on tournament performance and each team’s finalized season storyline, this is an alternative seeding of the Albany 2 region as it pertains to WVU, as well as a look at the matchups the Mountaineers may have encountered instead.

New seed and first round opponent: No. 6 vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee State (previously No. 9 Princeton)

Teams that fall: Louisville, Creighton

The argument could be made on West Virginia’s behalf against fifth-seeded Colorado due to Iowa’s convincing Sweet Sixteen win. That being said, the Buffaloes third-quarter dismantling of Kansas State, who defeated WVU in the Big 12 Tournament, makes doing so a tough hill to climb.

Without being able to see into alternative realities, therefore, Louisville and Creighton are the only two teams West Virginia could safely rank above in a reseeding of the region. The recent AP rankings bounced unranked Louisville after the sixth seed’s round one loss to Middle Tennessee State but rate Creighton slightly above West Virginia, at No. 23.

In Creighton’s two games in the NCAA Tournament, the Bluejays fought off a 30-point night from UNLV’s Desi-Rae Young and boasted a strong eight-point lead at halftime in their loss to the UCLA Bruins.

The Bluejays do have a strong three-point shooting presence, which was on full display against the Bruins, who allow a better percentage from beyond the arc on average than they shoot. Creighton also has three 15-points-per-game scorers at its disposal, in Lauren Jensen, Emma Ronsiek, and Morgan Maly, who each upheld her scoring production in the postseason.

With an 0-3 record against top 25 teams this season, though, justifying Creighton’s seeding above WVU, who shoots better from the field (44.68%), scores more points per game (73.7), and forces the third most turnovers with the second most steals per game in the entire NCAA, is a challenge.

Without completely reseeding their corner of the bracket, the Mountaineers new seed of sixth would match them against Middle Tennessee State, the only lower seed from Albany 2 to advance to the second round.

Middle Tennessee State took down Louisville after rallying back from a 28-12 deficit at the end of the first quarter. Keeping pace with the Cardinals in the second quarter and shocking them with a 24-12 scoring margin in the third, Middle Tennessee State earned a one-point lead to end the third quarter and grew it to a comfortable margin for much of the fourth.

The Blue Raiders’ 71-69 win, earned despite a very late Louisville run, was impressive, but came with a 33-10 free throw attempt margin in their favor. When such a margin was reversed against LSU, who shot 37 free throws compared to MT’s nine, the 11-seed fell 83-56, marked by an abysmal 51-20 second-half deficit.

Generally, Middle Tennessee State shoots a high volume of three-point shots per game (24.5) and makes 34.66% of them, which was surpassed even in the LSU loss. Like Creighton, though, the Blue Raiders lack winning experience against top programs, as the team never faced a top 25 team before the tournament.

As a whole, WVU would likely have a difficult time matching up against 6’6″ center Anastasiia Boldyreva and would be met with a barrage of three-point attempts. Nevertheless, the powerful defense of the Mountaineers, which proved successful against Iowa’s much higher-ranked three-point shooting, would likely get the job done in round one.

Past that, the Mountaineers would face off against LSU themselves, a team with height all through its roster capable of drawing fouls in a similar manner as Iowa, would make scoring very challenging for WVU if the three is not falling.

Whether or not the Mountaineers would be able to take down LSU’s Elite Eight team will never be known. No matter the seed or matchup change, though, one thing would surely stay constant: WVU would not go down without a fight.

Photo by Aaron Parker, Blue Gold Sports