The Cal State Fullerton women's basketball team dragged into Amarillo Wednesday, site of the women's National Invitation Tournament, travel weary and flu-ridden. The Titans straggled off the plane and into a blustery Texas rainstorm.
It gets worse. Tonight, the Titans play top-seeded Texas Tech in the first round. Texas basketball fans, not the sort to sit with hands folded during games, are reportedly eager to claim superiority over the upstarts from California.
"I would say our Number One disadvantage is coming out to Texas to play a Texas school that is located 100 miles away," said Titan Coach Chris Gobrecht Wednesday from Amarillo. "It's practically their home court. I know the Texans are looking forward to proving they are better than Californians.
"Right now, we are a little tired. We were on the road at five this morning. We also have a couple of players who are fighting the flu. But, overall, we are healthy. We are really excited to be here, although we're still tired. It's fun for us. We recognize this as an honor to be included in postseason play. It's nice, especially for our seniors, because it extends their season."
The teams in this tournament are the eight next-best teams in the country--the eight which were not selected for the 32-team NCAA tournament. Interestingly, Texas Tech was ranked in the Top 20 all season. The Red Raiders finished second in the tough Southwestern Conference, behind top-ranked Texas.
Because the NIT was seeded primarily on records, the 22-7 Red Raiders were seeded first and Fullerton (17-10) was seeded eighth. But Gobrecht says that with such Western Collegiate Athletic Assn. opponents as Cal State Long Beach, UCLA and USC, the Titans' record is not the most accurate measure of the team's ability.
"I think the quality of our schedule is a big advantage for us," Gobrecht said. "There isn't anything we haven't faced. We are not fearful."
Fullerton has not played any of the tournament's teams this season. Also participating in the three-day event are second-seeded Florida (20-8), No. 3 Drake (23-4), No. 4 LSU (18-9), No. 5 West Virginia (19-8), No. 6 West Texas State (25-4) and No. 7 Montana (22-7).
The Titans will use their suffocating half-court defense against a running, shooting Texas Tech team.
"They (Texas Tech) have excellent quickness on the perimeter," Gobrecht said. "They shoot the ball very well and rebound very well. But it's not like they are going to show us something we haven't seen."
The Red Raiders are led by 6-foot 2-inch center Tricia Clay, who averaged 16.9 points and 7.0 rebounds a game during the regular season.
Meg Gallagher, who averaged 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and had 128 assists during the regular season, leads Fullerton.
"We'll run if we have to, but we prefer to play half court," Gobrecht said. "If we can control the tempo of the game we will do well against them.