Arizona Women's Basketball

Arizona’s No. 7 seed surprising to Barnes & Wildcats, who’ll face No. 10 West Virginia

Plenty of storylines for Arizona heading to College Park, Md., this week as the No. 7 seed of the NCAA Tournament’s Greenville (S.C.) Regional, and chief among them does not have anything to do with prior relationships — like that of former Wildcat Brenda Frese now a legendary coach at Maryland.

The biggest story: How does Arizona go from a potential No. 4 seed one week and all the way to No. 7 the next after losing its last three games?

Playing at the Oregon schools and then facing UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament is not an easy stretch, but the Wildcats were penalized for losing all three to be 21-9 overall.

Adia Barnes, who will coach her third straight team to the NCAA tournament, said she was a “little bit surprised” at the drop.

“I think we thought we’d be a little bit of a lower seed,” she is quoted as saying by

Arizona will face No. 10 West Virginia on Friday at College Park, Md. (time to be determined) in the first round game.

West Virginia (19-11) lost forward Esmery Martinez to the transfer portal after last season following the retirement of Mike Carey, who led the Mountaineer program for 21 years.

Martinez has started all 30 games for Arizona and averaged 10.5 points, with a team-best 8.3 rebounds per game.

Bett Shelby also came to Tucson from West Virginia before this season to be the special assistant to Barnes after spending the previous three seasons as Carey’s top assistant.  Before going to West Virginia, she was an assistant under Frese and also served as the Terrapins’ recruiting coordinator.

Maryland signed a pair of top-five recruiting classes and won Big Ten regular season and conference championships during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with Shelby.

Frese, who played for June Olkowski and Joan Bonvicini at Arizona from 1989-92, is 617-175 in 24 years of coaching, the last 21 at Maryland. She has coached Maryland to three Final Fours, including the national championship in 2005-06.

The No. 2 Terrapins (25-6) open against No. 15 Holy Cross (24-8) on Friday.

In an interview with last year, Frese said playing for two different coaches at Arizona in her final two seasons — which were beset by foot injuries that resulted in four surgeries — was the impetus for her coaching career.

“I think I had the highs and lows when I was at Arizona,” said Frese, who was a regular starter as a sophomore. “I was so happy with my decision (to attend Arizona). I went away from home (in Cedar Rapids, Iowa) — 26 hours (driving).

“I got to be coached by two great coaches when you talk about Joan Bonvicini and June Olkowski. June recruited me and then Joan came in behind it. For me, that’s where I kind of got my lens of watching coaches in the locker room and seeing the different philosophies. … Ultimately, kind of an ironic blessing in disguise (with the foot injuries) because it really propelled my coaching career to get into it sooner.”

During her fifth year at Arizona, in 1992-93, she was a volunteer assistant coach at Pima College under Susie Pulido.

After assistant coaching jobs at Kent State and Iowa State, Frese became a head coach for the first time at Ball State in 1999-2000. She went from there to Minnesota in 2001-02 and was hired by Maryland in 2002-03.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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