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.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Guru Picks The NCAA 33 At-Large Women's Teams

(Guru's note: It will be a busy day but here's the final mining for 33 effort. Two posts under this has the complete conference tournament summary and a separate breakout of all the conference championship rounds. More to be written late Monday night after helping the Guru's former print employers.)

By Mel Greenberg

The mining is done, though the direction the Guru has gone may not be the same as the NCAA committee but the teams the Guru focused on were all worthy so if he is wrong on a few, the official choices will still have been decent.

The bubble was not all that large but in four tournaments considered by many as one-bid affairs there were upsets and the victims had to be placed into the mix disrupting the existing setting.

There were actually 15 places -- half the total of tournaments -– where the No. 1 seed did not win the conference event.

In some situations, it was academic, the team that lost was going NCAA dancing and the team that won would have also been going if it had been the runnerup.

In other situations, it didn’t make a difference – the number one seed was going to have to win or head to the WNIT, which will be a very good tournament this year.

But in the case of the four wrong losers, which included one ranked team, the pre-existing setting was ruffled.

As a result some teams got bumped aside that might not have been otherwise but whether the ones the Guru picked for elimination are the ones that will lose out in reality remains to be seen when the bracket is presented Monday night.

Of course here in Philadelphia there is interest in how the regional will shape up with the expectation that it will be another potential homecoming event for UConn coach Geno Auriemma on the way to the Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

In making choices – and right now it is just about who gets one of the 33 at-large bids -- the Guru used a combination of the process taught at the mock brackets, much of which had known over the years, and also with a sense of what the committee might do.

Thus, you will see only one Atlantic 10 at-large team though certainly the conference is worthy of one or two more. But he has sense a drifting away towards other choices and so when he took both teams off the lock list, which might have held but not for the upsets, the two did not hold up against others on the bubble list when his final cuts were being made.

So, first let’s go through the locks – Jerry Palm had final numbers off Sunday’s results all updated so the Guru relied on the collegerpi.com site to get the numbers.

The locks:

Atlantic Coast: -- 5
Team, W-L, RPI, SOS
Miami 27-4, 12, 65
Florida State 23-7, 13, 21
Maryland 23-7, 14, 22
Georgia Tech 23-10, 18, 16
North Carolina 26-8, 20, 47

Comment: The five here have been on everybody’s projection list. They’ve been in the rankings and all have relatively strong RPI and schedule rankings to produce an outstanding body of work. There might have been a sixth of Boston College had not faded down the stretch.
Miami’s schedule is a little softer in this group but considering the Hurricanes tied for the regular season ACC crown says enough about their performance.

A-Ten 1
Temple 23-8, 36, 67

Comment: A near-perfect run through the conference that ended at the hands of ultimate champion Xavier as well as competitive losses against ranked teams earned the Owls this status despite a loss to a very good Dayton team in the semifinals.

There were some bad losses early that could have been harmful to the Owls’ cause but the performance from late December on negated any potential problems.

Dayton or Duquesne were at one time seemingly in lock status but the Guru got a sense that at the finish neither was able to maintain solid footing though if the Guru owned the world, he might have gone in a different direction.

But for now to execute this drill the right way, the two get moved to the bubble list.

Big-Twelve - 5
Texas A&M 27-5, 6, 1
Kansas State 21-10, 37, 39
Oklahoma 21-11, 21, 9
Iowa State 22-10, 34, 38
Texas Tech 22-10, 24, 24

Comment: This group evolved along the way at the expense of other teams elsewhere in the nation.

A month ago Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Iowa State were considered locks and Texas, which heads to the bubble, could have also been in this mix.

Texas Tech and Kansas State pulled quality wins in conference down the stretch to make the at-large group.

Big East -- 7
DePaul 27-6, 11, 28
Notre Dame 26-7, 10, 12
Rutgers 19-12, 23, 7
Marquette 23-8, 27, 51
Louisville 20-12, 38, 39, 20
Georgetown 22-10, 19, 14
St. John’s 21-10, 33, 33

Comment: It’s been like a dress rehearsal NCAA tournament won by top-ranked Connecticut for the automatic qualifier in the Big East and two more get sent from here to the bubble. All have quality wins and schedules in this group in the lock perception.

Rutgers got started late but early enough to finish in sole possession of fourth place. DePaul and Notre Dame next get a chance to challenge UConn for national honors if paths cross again. Georgetown has been solid most of the year while St. John’s built enough of a resume to make this group and Marquette and Louisville got wins down the stretch to also get involved.

There's is talk about nine or 10 teams but the Guru will have that discussion when the next phase is discussed.

Also, understand all these teams were evaluated as teams unto themselves but it is easier to organize the discussion to present the locks in this format.

Big Ten -- 3
Michigan State 26-5, 16, 53
Penn State 24-9, 32, 52
Iowa 22-8, 17, 23

Comment: Three solid teams with Penn State making its first appearance since 2005. Michigan State won the regular season and Iowa was solid and its body of work compares favorably.

Pac-10 – 1
UCLA 27-4, 9, 32

Comment: The Guru it appears accidentally left this conference off the list on Sunday morning.

But to continue: The Bruins were 0-for-Stanford but pretty much beat everyone else and may land a No. 2 seed. But gone are the days for the moment when this conference delivered a mass number of participants. However, two more are on the bubble until that phase of our discussion occurs.

SEC – 3
Kentucky 24-8, 15, 18
Georgia 21-10, 35, 36
Vanderbilt 20-11, 30, 17

Comment: Here’s another place that used to be more heavy duty. Kentucky was the most solid but Georgia and Vanderbilt did just enough to make this list. The Guru acknowledges that it is a shaky status and if either is given a quick exit in the NCAAs it will not be a major shock.

Ok, so that brings the total to 25 locks which means it’s time to bring the bubble group into play and the Guru selected a group that were just a cut below lock status and also adds the four No. 1s that were displaced in conference competition – wrong losers so to speak -- to be used in the comparisons.

So here are 15 bubble teams with some nitty gritty data and then the discussion will continue. Of this group seven have to be cut to complete the group of 33.

Bubble teams including Wrong Losers For Comparisons

**-Houston 26-5 RPI 26: SOS 96; L10 (9-1) T25 (0-1); T50 (2-2); T100 (6-5)
**-La Tch 24-7; RPI 28; SOS 69; L10 (8-2); T25 (0-0); T50 (3-4); T100 (6-7)
West Va. 23-9 RPI 29; SOS 46; L10 (4-6); T25 (0-5); T50 (2-8); T100 (9-9)
Texas 19-13 RPI 38; SOS 13; L10 (4-6); T25 (2-10); T50 (3-11); T100 (6-13)
Ariz, St. 20-10 RPI 41; SOS 42; L10 (7-3); T25 (1-6); T50 (3-6); T100 (5-9)
Additionally, ASU is 11-1 against next group of 100-200 teams.

**-MTSU 23-7; RPI 44; SOS 89; L10 (7-3); T25 (1-3); T50 (2-3); T100 (4-5)
Additionally 12-2 next group
USC 19-12 RPI 45; SOS 25; L10 (6-4); T25 (0-6); T50 (3-8); T100 (5-12)
Dayton 21-11 RPI 46; SOS 45; L10 (6-4); T25 (0-4); T50 (1-7); T100 (7-9)
Additionally 6-2 in next group
Purdue 20-11 RPI 49; SOS 48; L10 (6-4); T25 (2-6); T50 (4-7); T100 (8-11)
LSU 19-13; RPI 51; SOS 27; L10 (5-5); T25 (1-6); T50 (4-7); T100 (7-13)

Duquesne 22-8 RPI 52; SOS 92; L10 (5-5); T25 (1-1); T50 (2-5); T100 (7-8)
Syracuse 22-9 RPI 54; SOS 84; L10 (6-4); T25 (1-8); T50 (4-9); T100 (6-9)
Michigan 17-12 RPI 55; SOS; 31 L10 (5-5); T25 (3-4); T50 (4-8); T100 (9-8)
Additionally Michigan is 7-4 against 101-200.
**-BYU 22-8 RPI 59 SOS; 104; L10 (9-1); T25 (0-1); T50 (0-2); T100 (4-5)
Additionally BYU is 12-3 against next group.
TCU 23-10 RPI 67: SOS 99; L10 (8-2); T25 (1-1); T50 (2-5); T100 (5-7)
Additionally TCU is 9-2 next 100 and 8-1 beyond.

**-Was wrong loser in perceived one-bid league but had enough to be discussed for at-large candidacy. There are four.
Comment: OK, the drill here is to eliminated seven teams so here goes.

BYU or TCU should have been the Mountain West winner but neither made it with Utah in an upstart role coming through.
However, because of weak strength of schedules, losses to teams in the Top 100 plus category, and not a large body of work compared to others here, the Guru votes both off the list and now we’re down to 13 and have to cut five more.

Michigan also gets voted off despite a few quality wins that are negated by several bad losses – four to be specific – to teams in the 100-200 rankings in the RPIs.

That means three are gone, we’re down to 12 and have to cut four more which makes it a little tougher.

Some bracketologists have Syracuse in the NCAA field as a 10th representative of the Big East, which would be phenomenal for the conference but the Guru just doesn’t see the committee going that direction with all the complexities that will be involved in setting the bracket.

The Orange could have forced the issue but don’t help their cause with a terrible nonconference schedule. There are four quality wins – three in conference and one over an Ohio State team that wasn’t sure what kind of season it wanted when Syracuse pulled a home ambush.

Maybe that’s enough for the committee, but not enough for the Guru.

So, it’s down to 11, which mean three more have to go.

The next elimination goes to Southern Cal, which loses out despite a decent RPI of 45 and a strength of schedule ranking at 25.

Part of the exercise here is what did you do against others on this list trying to crash the same fence.

Well, how about losing twice to Arizona State, which gives the Sun Devils a leg up on the gateway, though they were a little shaky in their own right.

There’s the loss to Arizona in the conference tournament – an earlier than anticipated.

On the plus side are wins over Georgia and Gonzaga back in November that also saw a lost to Princeton, not that the Tigers are chopped liver.

A win over Fresno might mean a little something considering the team earned the AQ out of the Western Athletic Conference.

So in these quarters, that makes it 10 left and two more to be cut.

And so it goes to this, though maybe not by the committee --- Dayton and Duquesne miss the cut though one can argue for both or either. Dayton made a great A-10 tournament run and Duquesne had a phenomenal year in the conference.

Like the Guru said, maybe one or both will survive but consider the duo in this exercise to be victims of the wrong losers.

While this part was written from a standpoint of making cuts, the Guru also issued invite passes in the other direction.

1. Houston was saved because the Cougars, though not having a strong SOS, did have a closing kick before the upset loss to Tulane in Conference USA.
There were also wins over Louisiana Tech and Louisville, who are in the tournament, as well as conference winner UCF.
At the same time, it can be argued the other way.

2. Louisiana Tech had a win over Georgia, competitive losses to Arkansas-Little Rock, Marquette, while there were two narrow wins in overtime against Fresno State before the loss at the buzzer in the Western Athletic Conference title game.

3. Texas with a 38 RPI and a 13 strength-of-schedule gives the Longhorns a small edge on other contenders from this list. There’s an overtime loss to Msssouri and a narrow one over to Oklahoma State but in terms of the opposition the Longhorns, despite 13 losses, compares favorably against most bubble teams in this group.

4. West Virginia struggled at the end of the season but has enough in the profile to give the Big East a ninth representative.

5. Middle Tennessee can be argued either way without regard to the recent tragedy right before the Sun Belt tournament. The schedule is not the strongest but strong enough with wins over two conference champions in James Madison and UCF. There’s also a win over Kansas State.

6. Purdue gets the nod if the committee thinks another Big Ten rep is warranted. The Guru knows, you’re not suppose to talk like that.
OK, well 49 RPI and 48 SOS compares with the two A-10 also-rans here, though it may come out the other way. There is a win over DePaul and a one-point loss to Maryland.

7. LSU. Others think the SEC gets a fifth representative though coach Van Chancellor has had better delegations on season performance earlier with the Tigers and much earlier in his days handling Ole Miss.
The RPI is 51 but the SOS is 27. If the overtime win over South Carolina goes the other way coach Dawn Staley may be holding this spot if the Gamecocks had won one or two more also. There are also wins over Louisiana Tech and UCLA just enough to gain an edge.

8. Arizona State as mention has a sweeping knockout punch of Southern Cal with a competitive RPI of 41 and SOS of 42. With seven games against the Top 25 RPI and nine against the Top 50 there might be jiust enough to offset damage from one loss in the 100-200 group.

So that’s it.

OK, since you asked: The No. 1 seeds are Connecticut, Baylor, Stanford and Tennessee with a six-for four fight for the No. 2s among Duke, Xavier, Notre Dame, DePaul, UCLA and Texas A&M.

The Guru, who will be helping his former paper with print coverage of the picks Monday night, will be back real late and we shall see how this all worked out.

-- Mel


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