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.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Guru Muse and News: The Hunt For 33 NCAA At-Large Bids

By Mel Greenberg

Well, since conference play has passed the halfway point, it is time to see how the NCAA field is shaping up.

For now, and the emphasis on "for now," it looks like the bubble may not be so big as in other years unless spoilers in one-team assumed conferences upset the proverbial apple cart or some dark horses steal automatic bids in the power conferences.

For the moment, call this the quick eye-ball attempt to just get an idea of the size of field of contenders for the 33 at-large group.

Some obvious teams won’t appear here because they are assumed to be ones that will go the automatic route or are assigned as such here because barring upsets from teams in the low part of the standings they are interchangeable with teams on the list below.

For example, Connecticut is not listed because the Huskies are on the assumed winner list in the Big East and if that doesn’t happen UConn most likely would switch with someone on this list from the conference.

The Guru will deal later in another week with the total look.

Below will be two lists – assumed locks and discussion/bubble.

Some comments will be made to enhance the reasoning for placement of teams below.

So here goes and while the Guru knows to look at teams on their own merit, it is easier to look at standings and identify conference affiliations.

Apparent Locks

Atlantic Coast (5) Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Florida State, Georgia Tech.
Big Twelve (4) Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas.
Big East (7) Notre Dame, DePaul, Marquette, Georgetown, West Virginia, Louisville, St. John’s. – Some of these Big East teams might be soft picks for now.
Big Ten (3) Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa – The Guru gave Penn State the automatic for being in first and getting ranked, though the conference race is wide open.
Pac-Ten (1) UCLA – More might come but the Guru went with the only one that felt comfortable for the moment.
Southeastern (3) – Georgia, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Perhaps the Commdores are interchangeable with another SEC school in the next group.

Anyhow the total comes to 23. It is not a strong year for mid-majors in terms of how the committee might look at things but remember there are some in the assumed winner group not listed that could bump schools here if they don’t win automatic bids.

While the Guru says it is not a good year for mid-majors -- he considers the Atlantic 10 a bit above mid-major -- he would add that there are some terrific teams and competition in the Colonial Athletic Association. However, when it comes to the data and so-called body of work, he does not think any could get at-large status unless someone makes the eye-witness to basketball argument versus the numbers.

And now the discussion group.

Atlantic Coast (1) Boston College
Atlantic Ten (3) Temple, Dayton, Duquesne.
Big Twelve (2) Kansas State, Texas Tech
Big East (1) Rutgers
Big Ten (3) Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State
Pac-Ten (2) Arizona State, Southern Cal
Southeastern (2) LSU, Auburn

That brings the total to 14 and the overall total to 37 – just four above the maximum number needed.

Now if certain teams hold serve the rest of the way, they could be among the first moved to the lock group the next time around.

For example, if Temple beats Dayton and doesn’t have another bad loss, the Owls could move because they would have wins over teams in this group such as Dayton (assumed), Duquesne, Rutgers, and Auburn.

Wisconsin, with 10 losses already is a dilemma because there are some good wins by the Badgers.

Rutgers absolutely cannot lose to Pittsburgh Tuesday night and could help itself stealing a win off one of the Big East biggies left to play. Again, remember, if this crowd were to be the real group on the table, Rutgers could have enough at the end to not be one of the four needed to be sliced.

Ivy Race Wide Open

Well, some of you may have noticed that Harvard beat Princeton at home over the weekend, dropping the defending champs into second place.

It was not too far back that the Guru was entertaining the notion that the Tigers might be worthy of an at-large bid if they were to finish one game out, but that is now a moot point for several reasons.

First, Princeton cannot afford any more losses so if that happens then it is assumed that if Harvard only lost to the Tigers in this equation it would mean a playoff for an automatic NCAA bid. Thus, someone would have two losses to the other team.

Furthermore, the committee would probably factor in the season-ending knee injury to Niveen Rasheed, the Tigers’ best player, if Princeton did not prevail in a playoff.

Weekly Awards

Speaking of the Ivy League, Alyssa Baron’s 38-point performance over the weekend for Penn in the double overtime loss to Harvard earned her Ivy player and rookie of the week as well as another shared Big Five player of the week with Temple’s Shey Peddy, who also shared the Atlantic 10’s player of the week award with Dayton’s Justine Raterman.

Here is the Penn release speaking of Baron’s exploits:

Baron set a freshman record with 38 points Saturday night at Harvard - which is the 11th-most ever scored in a game by an Ivy League player and the fourth-most ever scored in an Ivy League game. It is the highest scoring output in the League since Harvard’s Hana Peljto scored 40 on Jan. 15, 2004, against Lafayette.

Since the turn of the century, an Ivy freshman has been named both Player and Rookie of the Week only four times, and this marks the second such occurrence for Baron in the last three weeks. This is also the sixth Ivy Rookie recognition of the year for Baron. Only one other Quaker has ever won more Rookie honors and only seven players in Ivy history have won more. Penn's Diana Caramanico holds the Ivy League record with 10 selections.

For the week, the Miami, Fla., native averaged 28.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals. She shot 47.7 percent from the floor, 38.4 percent from three-point range and was 10-for-11 (91%) from the free throw line.

Baron, now the three-time reigning Ivy Rookie of the Week, set the school record in a double overtime loss at first-place and Ivy unbeaten Harvard. The Gulliver Prep product tied the game with 10 seconds left in regulation with two free throws, then forced double overtime when she tied the game on a jumper with 24 seconds left in the first extra session. She also set a career high with six assists and four steals, while shooting better than 50 percent (14-for-27) from the floor and from three-point range (4-for-7). She was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line. She played 45 minutes.

Less than 24 hours earlier, she played 37 minutes at Dartmouth and scored a team-high 19 points as the Quakers fell in the final minute, 68-65. She also had a then-career high five assists and matched a career-best with eight rebounds.

Baron also swept the trio of honors as the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week, Ivy League Rookie of the Week and Big 5 Co-Player of the Week on Jan. 24. The 5-10 guard also won the Rookie honors on Nov. 15, Nov. 29, Jan. 2 and Jan. 31. She split this week's Big 5 honor with Temple's Shea Peddy.

Meanwhile, Penn State’s Maggie Lucas of Narberth and Germantown Academy continues to monopolize the Big Ten rookie of the week award after helping the Nittany Lions take sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.

Here’s PSU’s announcement after the conference made the choice formal.

Penn State Lady Lion guard Maggie Lucas claimed her conference-record seventh Big Ten Freshman of the Week award after averaging 20.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in a pair of road wins to propel the Lady Lions (20-5, 9-2) into sole possession of first place last week.

Lucas averaged 20.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game in a pair of wins last week. In Thursday's win at Michigan, Lucas was 9-for-16 from the field, including 6-for-6 from inside the arc, en route to 23 points. She also pulled in four rebounds and notched a steal against the Wolverines. Lucas continued her strong play with 18 points, including four three-pointers, in the upset win at #20 Iowa Sunday. She also snatched three rebounds to go with an assist and a steal.

With her performance against the Wolverines, the freshman guard surpassed the 400-point mark for her career, becoming the sixth Penn State freshman to accomplish the feat. She currently ranks fourth on Penn State’s freshman season scoring list with 418 points. Lucas has 11 games with 20 or more points this season, which are the most 20-point games by a PSU freshman since Kelly Mazzante had 10 in 2000-01. Lucas leads the team and is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring at a 16.7 per game rate. Lucas is also second in three-point field goal percentage (.460) and first in three-pointers made (3.5). Additionally, she is second in the Big Ten in free throw percentage with an 88.3% (53-60) mark from the charity stripe. Lucas currently is second on Penn State’s single-season three-point field goal percentage chart (.460) and fourth in three-pointers made (87).

There were other conference honorees from area schools this week.

Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, who recently returned to action after missing 11 straight games due to symptoms of Lyme disease, is back in the business of collecting player of the week honors from the Colonial Athletic Association.
The graduate of Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy was the CAA rookie and player of the year last season.

Caitlin Shaw of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia was named co-player of the week in the Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference after helping the Devils reach a school-record 10 game win streak.

WNBA After-Thought

The Guru remains curious if a video exists of his good friend San Antonio Silver Stars general manager Dan Hughes looking in the mirror recently and offering himself the opportunity to return to the coaching sidelines in the Alamo City.

So now the coach of the former Cleveland Rockers has become the Grover Cleveland of the WNBA serving separate terms in the Silver Stars’ oval office.

-- Mel


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