Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Guru's Mid-Season NCAA Entrance Exam Report

By Mel Greenberg

With the conference races ready to start phasing into the second half of the season and most of the out-of-conference work completed, it’s time to take a gauge at who’s in, who’s out and who goes on the table for discussion in terms of the 64-team NCAA tournament field.

The standard used here will be the RPI site by Jerry Palm at collegerpi.com/women because it seems the easiest to interpret and most of the other RPI sites are located virtually on the same street with similar value,

While many teams just need to hold serve the rest of the way, it appears that the race for individual conference titles will go a long way determining who will land among the 33 at-large bids to go with the 31 automatic berths that come with winning 30 conference tournaments and one in-season Ivy League title.

This post for now is just a snapshot at what would happen if the NCAA committee were meeting today, the second day of the New Year 2011, as opposed to later on in mid-March when the field will be drawn, seeded, and bracketed.

The key stats for this exercise will be RPI, strength-of-schedule and Division I record. Also under the microscope will be good wins, good losses, and bad losses.

The Guru will go conference-by-conference to provide more focus.

First, to save some time, is anyone in the room in the following conferences?: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West (subject to recall), Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, and SWAC.

When determined, will the 17 of you who are conference winners please report for your bracketing assignment. As for the rest of you in those respective conferences, as of now, good luck to those who will be heading to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). Unfortunately, the data right now does not allow any of you to be on the table for at-large consideration.

But remember, the working phrase is: right now.

There are seven more that would also normally be joining your leagues in this category but some further discussion is needed.

And if things were to fall a certain way and the right teams won in those seven spots, there would be 24 of you heading for automatic bids leaving just six conferences, all from the football BCS, and the Atlantic 10 for at-large worthiness.

But remember things can change. For now, barring dark horse winners that would knock out any of seven considered likely to win those BCS plus one title, the overall fight for 33 at-large through a quick hand count shows roughly 44 contenders, some in better shape than others. That measurement also gives an idea how big or small the so-called bubble would be.

The records will be overall, only, since many have played just one in-conference contest or none at all.

So to get to the easy part, let’s look at those seven conferences that might make things simple:

Colonial Athletic Association:

Team Won-Loss RPI Strength of Schedule (SOS)

Drexel 8-3 29 36
Hofstra 8-3 113 238
Delaware 7-4 86 96
James Madison 7-5 70 47
Old Dominion 6-5 51 16

Discussion: Drexel, picked sixth, is the surprise of the league in nonconference play. The RPI and SOS are in excellent tandem, the best in Dragons history. Still, they must land in the top four or maybe even two or three and do well in the CAA tournament, getting some quality wins over other CAA contenders and maybe one allowable bad loss the rest of the way.

They have wins over St. Joseph’s and at Penn State, with the losses coming competitively at Virginia and Princeton. There was a wipeout by Texas A&M but that’s playing in the big leagues just to matchup. Right now, they are at-large material if they don’t win the CAA.

Hofstra is fielding its best team in years on the floor but the Pride, which opens Sunday at Delaware, must make their bones in the conference. The problem is the 113 RPI and 238 SOS with playing Virginia the only redeemable chip at the moment. And the Cavaliers, depending how they do in the ACC, are a fragile chip.

Delaware also must make its fortune in the CAA where the Blue Hens lost a ton of games last year in the last minute to the conference big-timers despite the debut of Elena Delle Donne. And since she was absent in losses to St. Joseph’s, Princeton and Vanderbilt, and did play in a loss at Penn State, all because of back problems, the Blue Hens will undergo a with/without EDD discussion if they are on the bubble come March.

James Madison has a borderline RPI vs. a decent schedule. The health of otherwise super talent Dawn Evans becomes a question (see EDD). Good win over Virginia and good losses to Iowa, Duke and Middle Tennessee. However, losses to Hampton and Monmouth could be a deal breaker the wrong way when compared to other A-L candidates. Must avoid bad CAA upsets and needs to grab wins in the upper reaches of the conference.

Old Dominion would probably have to finish high in the conference and go a long way in the tournament and pick up some quality CAA wins to be a strong at-large candidate. Good wins, in some respect, include Georgia Tech, Louisville, and Charlotte, while good losses are Tennessee, Richmond, for who they are on the floor; and Tulane. Losses to North Carolina State and Florida become questionable unless the value of those teams increase.

SSummary: One at-large, maybe. Wait for the Guru’s re-visit after the first half of conference play. Others will have to be involved in CAA take-downs to enter the discussion next time around.


Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Tulane 10-2 35 84

Discussion and Summary: If the Green Wave swamps the conference, end of story. If not, then they will be measured by a good RPI and so-so schedule when compared to other A-L contenders. Must avoid bad conference losses if possible. Good wins over LSU, St. Joseph’s and Old Dominion. Two so-so losses to Portland State and Louisiana Tech, the latter of which can be viewed in eye of observer.

Horizon League

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Wis.-Green Bay 12-1 30 127

Discussion and Summary: If they win it, it’s a one-team conference. If not, out of conference schedule not super in terms of fighting with other A-L contenders. Good win: Penn State. Potentially good loss: Marquette. Statistically, WGB will be going through cement in conference play the rest of the way so what goes for them goes for everyone else with a similar profile – beware of conference upsets, they will do harm.

Ivy League

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Princeton 10-3 31 53

Discussion and Summary: This may be an academic discussion if the Tigers run the Ivy table again. However, if one would subject Princeton as a blind taste testing, no one would guess Ivy as the label. But take a look at the numbers now before the league drags the Tigers down statistically. Today, if they lost by one game, though improbable, one would have to consider the Tigers to a normally unheard of at-large bid out of academia. But consider: Good wins: Drexel, Southern Cal, at Delaware (though without EDD). Good losses: At Rutgers (even if RU isn’t acting like RU or maybe it is), at St. Joseph’s in double overtime; at Vanderbilt.

Sun Belt

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Middle-Tennessee 9-4 16 11

Discussion and Summary: If MTSU wins the conference, end of the discussion. Otherwise, good RPI, good SOS. Good wins: James Madison to a degree and likewise Kansas State. Good losses in terms of opponents: Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Xavier, Kentucky. Big trick is to avoid bad conference losses the rest of the way.

Western Athletic

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Louisiana Tech 7-5 45 17

Discussion and Summary: Like the others in this type profile, if the Techsters win the conference, the discusson is over. But if not and it’s today, RPI is decent and schedule strength is super though record against it is so-so. Good wins over Tulane and Georgia. Good loss to LSU. Other losses not all terrible include Houston, LSU, Missouri State, Marquette and Arkansas-Little Rock.

West Coast Conference

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Gonzaga 11-4 112 226

Discussion and Summary: Were not it known of the product on the floor, the RPI and SOS makes one wonder why have this discussion, which will be moot if Zags win the conference. They are already guaranteed great non-bench seats hosting first, second, and NCAA regional rounds. The losses are Southern Cal, Mississippi (might be bad), Stanford and Notre Dame. The wins, well, never mind.

The BCS Plus One

Ok, this discussion may be performed somewhat different in examining the pool. And more teams will listed within a conference because of the local following. So here we go.By the way, all records are through Dec. 31, 2010.

Atlantic Coast

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Duke 13-0 1 2
North Carolina 13-0 36 196
Miami 13-1 39 153
Boston College 12-1 50 208
Maryland 12-1 13 64
Florida State 11-3 23 48
Georgia Tech 11-4 25 32
Virginia 9-5 59 56

Discussion: OK, by the numbers, Duke, Maryland, Florida State, and Georgia Tech would appear to be locks, though one may win the automatic bid. For now Virginia gets credit for effort in scheduling but will needs good conference wins and could afford maybe one bad conference loss. As for North Carolina, which makes it on talent, Boston College and Miami, looking at those SOS marks – for punishment all three should be sent to UConn for the next three days to be the sparring partners except none of them would be helpful in preparing for Villanova. Actually, they should suffer at Villanova to help the Wildcats prepare for the Huskies.

Summary: Still, looks like five locks, one of which may be an automatic. But BC and Miami will need to pick off conference leaders and suffer no bad ACC losses or at least one will lose the A-L fight to someone with quality numbers elsewhere.

Atlantic 10

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Duquesne 11-2 19 65
Xavier 10-2 12 22
Charlotte 11-3 46 94
St. Joseph’s 10-3 26 45
Richmond 9-4 78 107
Dayton 8-5 52 33
Temple 7-6 75 38

Discussion: One must wait till the halfway point in conference play for a better picture. Today Xavier is in no matter what. Considering the No. 7 the Atlantic 10 has for the conference RPI, that would help Duquesne along with the Dukes' win at Oho State, unless the Buckeyes devalue, and good losses at West Virginia and Vanderbilt. Dukes need to be in contention for second in conference and lose only to the quality teams

Charlotte had no wins of note, so the 49ers will have to feed on the league and, again, not get caught in any undertow.

St. Joseph’s, which hosts Maryland Sunday, has numbers. The loss at Lehigh is a bruise but losses at Drexel (close) and Tulane are ok. There’s a double overtime win against Princeton. The win at Delaware did not occur with EDD on the other team.

Richmond has a win over ODU and no bad losses but needs to right the ship in conference play.

Dayton and Temple were suppose to be in the top three in the league and will need to beat the conference crowd with no bad losses. Temple has a schedule but no rpi or record. That’s because losses to Seton Hall, Pepperdine, and Eastern Michigan erase solid efforts against Ohio State, UCLA and Duke. Wins against Rutgers and Auburn have less value than other years. Maybe the committee will see that coach Tonya Cardoza worked at UConn and the word host site on the NCAA schedule in terms of Temple, though the Owls under the rules would have to be in another region. But right now that region is the WNIT.

Dayton’s game with Boston College Monday will reflect big further down the road depending on the winner.

Summary: Figure at least two teams, maybe three for now, but the who won’t come into focus until the first half of conference play is over.

Big 12

Teams Won-Loss RPI SOS

Baylor 13-1 6 20
Kansas 12-1 43 163
Texas Tech 12-1 28 124
Texas A&M 11-1 2 5
Oklahoma State 10-1 69 245
Iowa State 10-2 38 100
Oklahoma 10-2 72 197
Kansas State 10-3 101 240
Texas 10-3 40 69
Nebraska 9-4 63 71
Missouri 8-4 47 41

Discussion: Wow, look what under the microscope revealed. No wonder this conference beats out the the Big Ten and Big East for No. 1. They all got winning records, but, hey, the Guru is frosted having read a Midwest colleague on the power of the conference.

Well, yeah, put Baylor, Texas A&M, and Texas in the tournament. The numbers say yes. Nebraska and Missouri need some quality conference wins and to get into the upper part of the standings. As for Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State,stand in the deeper part of the bubble until you all prove yourself in conference play because those SOS marks do not cut it against other A-L contenders in other conferences. Oklahoma is a shocker but since the Sooners have been a Guru pet over the years, he’ll investigate a little further as to the cause.

Summary: Like the Guru said: At least three, one of which may win the title, or the winner comes elsewhere and its four for sure. Then let the rest battle it out to demonstrate worthiness for additional bids.

Big 10

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Penn State 12-3 34 67
Michigan 8-5 21 10
Michigan State 12-1 17 92
Iowa 12-2 7 15
Northwestern 11-3 20 43
Purdue 9-4 73 101
Ohio State 8-4 8 3

Discussion: Right now the numbers say Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa and Ohio State are in the tournament and four could be plenty. But let’s see what Michigan and Northwestern do. Purdue lacks the numbers but has the talent so expect the Boilermakers to change things up a bit in conference play.

Summary: Like the Guru said: Four, one of which may win the automatic bid and if so then perhaps one or two more can crash depending on the impact and what huge number represents of the Big East, which is the Guru’s next stop in this tour.

Big East

Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Connecticut 12-1 4 9
West Virginia 13-0 11 91
DePaul 13-2 9 30
St. John’s 12-2 33 93
Notre Dame 11-3 24 50
Louisville 10-5 56 60
Rutgers 6-6* 37 6
Syracuse 11-1 54 217
Marquette 12-2 32 86
Georgetown 13-2 15 21

Discussion: Looking at Syracuse’s SOS, if someone would send the Orange in a trade to the Big 12 for Missouri or Nebraska – oh the Huskers have been traded – this crowd would be totally angelic.

By the numbers the locks are UConn, DePaul, Notre Dame, and Georgetown. But this conference is a bear night-after-night so beating up on each other is better than a slide, which could happen north of Binghamton, especially since beating Ohio State has devalued somewhat.

West Virginia is a little high on its SOS (high being less good), but on the floor the Mountaineers have enough to stay in the upper half of the Big East and earn an at-large. The same goes for St. John’s. Rutgers has the numbers except in the won-loss column so the Scarlet Knights will need to step it up in conference play. But first they are going to take an RPI hit when George Washington visits Monday. The *6-6 for Rutgers precludes the win over non-Division I Kean.

Marquette and Louisville will have to make some hits on the Big East marquee group and avoid upsets from below to get in the mix.

Summary: Six locks right now with room for others to grab one or two spots.


Team Won-Loss RPI SOS

Stanford 9-2 5 4
UCLA 11-1 10 49
Southern Cal 9-3 18 27
Arizona State 9-2 14 25
California 8-3 64 104
Arizona 10-2 41 103

Discussion: Lock in Stanford, UCLA and Southern Cal with Arizona State looking like a potential entrant also. California and/or Arizona will neet to beat one of the other four and avoid being knocked off from below.

Summary: Four of which one will be an automatic winner as well as a streak-breaker. One already has broken a streak but if anyone stops that team from winning the conference, that's the other broken streak. One more could fight through.


Team Win-Loss RPI SOS

Arkansas 12-0 22 156
Kentucky 11-1 27 116
Tennessee 12-2 3 1
Georgia 10-3 66 135
Florida 10-4 62 95
LSU 10-4 48 63
Vanderbilt 9-4 42 40
South Carolina 8-5 76 70

Discussion: Not like old times. Kentucky is in on talent, if not schedule, but that’s why the lords of basketball invented conference play. Tennessee is a lock. Florida and Georgia will have to beat people but Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt are 50-50 so it will be an interesting race. For those who ask about South Carolina in this part of the world (Philadelphia) because of the coach’s ties, the numbers are similar to what they have been in the past at Temple. However, the Owls were able to improve through conference play. The Gamecocks have only one bad loss but no quality wins, though in another year North Carolina State would be one. So they will have to make some noise in the SEC.

Summary: Tennessee a lock and Kentucky, on talent. Then it’s a donnybrook for maybe two or three other spots. LSU and Vandy could be the ones but Arkansas, Georgia and Florida will have a chance to have their say unless South Carolina speaks louder.

OK. You got it. The sun is about to come up, Class dismissed for now.

-- Mel


Anonymous Michael Messinger said...

Mel: Became a fan of Northeast conference due to proximity to Monmouth. Who do you see winning the league?

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