Road to the NCAAs: Wrong Winners Cause Little Damage to At-Large Candidates
By Mel Greenberg
NEWARK, Del. -- On Location at CAAs.
Despite the avalanche of upsets striking teams holding No. 1 seeds in conference tournaments, there does not seem to be much need this time for the NCAA women’s basketball committee to send St. Bernard dogs out on the slopes to perform rescue work.
In some instances, certain victims such as Duke, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Ohio State, are still in very good shape and can handle things themselves as far as accessing the Big Dance.
In other instances, rescue work is not really worthwhile, although it’s possible some at-risk victims may get saved because of the strange season in which projection numbers for a 64-team field are running short of completion. Basically, however, wrong winner is a phrase meaning little this time.
But in this particular blog edition, let’s survey the damage that’s been done. Based on what we see so far, if this carries through to the NCAA tournament, a record number of surprises may be looming after the bracket is announced Monday night.
While the top of the bracket has little controversy, other than my poor colleagues up North who are dreading Connecticut being placed atop the Fresno regional, the seeds from the three line through the seven line, or maybe more, could be very even.
The lines to avoid if a team hopes to make a deep run are the 5-4, which feeds to a No.1.
Some teams will be pushed up higher than they suspect because of the large pile of teams worthy of seeds no better than maybe an 11.
But, for now, let’s look at the chaos that’s occurred so far with two more days left of teams being able to state their case on the court for the committee.
Atlantic Coast – Top seed Duke lost to fourth seed North Carolina State, but Blue Devils still loom as the overall No. 1 region seed.
America East – Concludes Sunday. Top-seed Hartford still alive, while No. 2 Stony Brook tumbled. If Hartford should not win, however, it’s No. 37 ranking at CollegeRPI as of Friday morning’s report may not be good enough. On the other hand, if everything else falls into place, there’s an outside chance for rescue work.
Atlantic Ten – No. 1 George Washington fell to No. 5 St. Joseph’s in the conference tourney, but the Colonials are still in decent shape and don’t need much rescue work, although they may start out on a different ledge.
Atlantic Sun – Top-seed Belmont beat East Tennessee State for title Saturday. ETSU and Jacksonville tied for second in regular season, two games back.
Big 12 – Top-seed Texas A&M fell to No. 4 Iowa State, but Aggies are still NCAA bound with honors. Oklahoma, which tied Texas A&M for first in the standings beat Iowa State, which tied for fourth in the standings. Both teams have NCAA tags, but Sooners could work their way as high as a No. 3 seed, depending on other factors.
Big Ten – No. 1 Ohio State fell in title game to No. 2 Purdue, but Buckeyes still likely to get either a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAAs.
Big East – No. 1 Connecticut fell to No. 2 Rutgers at home, but Huskies’ numbers strong enough to hold a No. 1 region slot. However, the region it gets may not be close to home.
Big Sky – So much for home court when it came to No. 1 Montana, which fell to No. 2 Northern Arizona Friday night in the semifinals. NAU, which meets No. 4 Idaho State for the title, Saturday, has a 112 RPI, while Idaho State sits at 13-13 with a 164 RPI. So the eliminated Grizzlies, with a 43 RPI, better hope everything else is perfect at other places to be considered for rescue.
Big South – No. 1 High point fell to No. 8 Winthrop in the quarterfinals. Tsk tsk. RPI at 150 will keep the rescue workers idle. No. 2 Radford, which finished a game behind High Point, lost to No. 4 UNC Asheville for title, Saturday. This is a winner-only event.
Big West – No. 1 UC Riverside beat No. 2 Santa Barbara, the perennial champion, on Saturday for title. UCR’s RPI is 101, UCSB, the perennial champ, has a 115 RPI. This is another winner-only event.
CAA – We’re here folks, we haven’t been home for over a week, though that travel configuration wasn’t in the original game plan. Enough of the Guru’s complaints. If the committee wants to grow the game, here is where talent exists to make up for the short fall of teams from the big time conferences. Major showdown semifinal today with perennial champion ODU beat No. 4 Hofstra before host Delaware, the No. 3, lost to No. 2 James Madison. An upset of ODU by JMU on Sunday will end a 15-season title run. Three teams have an RPI in the 20s. Hofstra’s RPI and conference standing lags behind the other three, but Pride stay in the NCAA at-large discussion. The other three are all already at-large worthy.
Conference USA – Tulane, which won the No. 1 seed by a game, fell to No. five Rice in the semifinals. An RPI of 67 most likely turns the Wave into a ripple. No. 3 East Carolina was the surprise winner. It will be tough to rescue Tulane unless a slot exists in the final hours of deliberation.
Horizon – No. 1 Wisconsin-Green Bay had to go into overtime to beat No. 4 Wisconsion-Milwaukee. Can the Butler do it in Sunday’s title game? If so, WGB may be left feeling like Swiss Cheese.
Ivy – No upset here. Why. No tournament, silly. Harvard won the regular season and that was enough. The Crimson are one of the many with a terrible RPI, but a low seed in either the Hartford or Pittsburgh opening rounds site seem in Harvard’s immediate future.
MAAC – Good for No. 1 Marist. They did what they needed to do – just win, baby. That 52 RPI may get them a 9 or an eight, though they’d be much happer with a 10 or an 11.
Mid-American – Bowling Green, the overall No. 1 seed which is also nationally ranked, beat the other conference divisional winner in Ball State, which may have needed to win the title Saturday.
MEAC – Top-seeded Coppin State had not lost in the conference since cell phones were invented until No. 4 Morgan State changed that in the semifinals. But Morgan State lost to No. 2 Delaware State for the title. How does Delaware-Delaware State sound for a first round game. Sorry, the first state wouldn’t meet itself in the first round. As for Coppin State, which won the regular season by six games and has a 74 RPI, have fun in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Mid-Continent – No. 1 Oakland, with an RPI of 140 didn’t make. The conference will be represented in the NCAAs by No. three Oral Roberts.
Missouri Valley – Top-seeded Southern Illinois won its slot by three games and then had it all taken away in Friday’s quarterfinal by No. 8 Drake, which has a 13-18 record. SIU’s RPI was 86. Drake beat Evansville, Saturday. Other team still alive here is No.62 Creighton State. You can’t script the way these tourneys are going.
Mountain West – This used to be a multi-access conference. Top-seed BYU, with RPI of 39 lost to No. 2 New Mexico with RPI of 60. BYU might get rescued.
Northeast – Top-seed Long Island lost at home last weekend to No. 8 seed St. Francis of N.Y. The bid contested Saturday was won by Robert Morris over Sacred Heart LIU’s RPI of 88 not good enough.
Ohio Valley – Top-seed SE Missouri is the winner.
PAC-10—Top-seed Stanford is the winner.
Patriot – No. 1 seed Bucknell lost, early,as did No. 2 Army, the defending champion. When the smoke cleared, No. 3 Holy Cross with a 15-17 record and 226 RPI, regained its former conference castle.
Southeastern – No. 1 Tennessee was upset by No. 4 LSU in semifinals, but Vols still have enough for a No. 1 region seed. No. 3Vanderbilt won the automatic bid.
Southern – No. 1 seed Chattanooga, tied in the conference standings, won the bid.
Southland – No. 1 Texas-Arlington, which was unbeaten in the conference and won by five games, beat No. 2 Stephen F. Austin, Saturday.
Sun Belt – Thank you very much, No. 1 Middle Tennessee State.
SWAC – Jackson State and Prairie View tied for first in the standings and on Saturday Prairie View won the automatic bid.
Western Athletic – No. 1Boise State,which tied Louisiana Tech in the standings, beat No. 7 New Mexico State, Saturday. Techsters were eliminated early and won’t be in the NCAAs for the first time.
West Coast – No. 1 Gonzaga won with RPI of 47.
The score to date, and we’ll update inside this blog Saturday, shows 13 #1s won, 15 #1s did not and 3 #1s are pending. Six of the 14 are getting access despite losing. Seven probably will not, although if room exists, as many as two slots might re-fill.