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.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Guru Report: NCAA Committee Chair Teleconference

(Guru’s note: There are two posts below this one with the complete up to date conference tracker and then the breakout predominantly Wednesday schedule. If you are in melgreenberg.com just press the mel’s blog link and you will be in blogspot.)

By Mel Greenberg

If it’s the Tuesday before the NCAA selection weekend, it means its time for the chair of the committee to spend some time on an afternoon teleconference with the media to preview the bracket process for the women’s field without getting into any team specific issues.

This year the honor goes to Marilyn McNeil, who also is the athletic director of Monmouth University.

So while she was totally focused on the task at end, she had to be thrilled hours later when the Hawks women’s basketball team (23-8) at her university beat Robert Morris 65-62 to advance to Sunday’s Northeast Conference title game at defending champion St. Francis of Pa, which finished first ahead of Monmouth in the standings.

This has been Monmouth’s best season in over several decades but it will be the first title round in seven seasons after matching the best-ever mark for total wins at the University.

The Hawks are coached by former Villanova star Stephanie V. Gaitley, who previously coached at Long Island U., St. Joseph’s and Richmond.

This is Gaitley’s third season and one of her players – Carly Thibauldt – is the daughter of Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault.

By virtue of Monmouth’s second place finish, the Hawks are guaranteed a trip to the WNIT if the Hawks don’t win the NCAA automatic bid on Sunday.

With that said, the teleconference was somewhat different in that it lasted a little shorter than in the past and the Guru believes there were several reasons.

First, many of the veterans of NCAA women’s coverage are now on the sidelines due to what the shrinkage of the industry. And if they were on the call, there really are not a lot of issues at the moment.

Unlike other years, some of the mysteries have been declassified because of published RPI projections and also because of the number of coaches and media types who have attended the mock bracket sessions to pretty much have handles on team’s situations.

As the Guru pointed out in the previous post – not a big bubble at the moment. And with less controversy in terms of getting in – more questions might get asked on the next go-round Monday night after the 64-team field and draw is announced on ESPN-TV (7 p.m.).

Then comes the inquiries if a team is omitted that appeared to be on everyone’s charts and of course there is always the perceived slight towards teams that get sent to tough home courts or get under seeded while it appears someone else got over seeded.

But McNeil promised “the best bracket ever” in her opening remarks, though the masses will be the ultimate judge of that Monday night, though the committee has a chance to get the last word in terms of how the tournament ultimately plays out.

So while the full transcript of the call is on the NCAA site, the Guru will offer you through the magic of computer cut-and-paste, some of McNeil’s observations and responses.

There really is one question on everyone’s mind and the call was cut right to the chase with a question about how Middle Tennessee would be viewed after losing its opener as the top seed in the Sun Belt Conference several days after the tragedy in which a player was stabbed to death.

Here is McNeil’s answer: “This was an unspeakable tragedy. The entire committee has sent their prayers and thoughts to Middle Tennessee, but to be specific about a team, the committee looks at the body of work of that team throughout the year, and the tragedy that affected Middle Tennessee does not affect the body of work that they have in order to be considered for the tournament.”

Incidentally, Wednesday morning’s RPI report by Jerry Palm lists MTSU with an RPI of 46 and strength of schedule at 93.

She was then asked how the loss might be handled in terms of the application of injured players affecting teams.

“Yes, it is, obviously different, and these are very difficult situations. But teams earn their way into the tournament based on what they did in the regular season. Seeding is a different story, and it can be affected by the status of certain players and perhaps that might have an effect. But right now Middle Tennessee would be considered based on their body of work for the season.”

A question came up over the potential of nine or 10 Big East teams and how that might affect the principles in terms of keeping teams from the same conference apart.

McNeil said a change several years ago allows for earlier matchups of teams from the same conference if the league were to get as many as nine.

“They could meet as early as the first or second round,” McNeil said.

Unlike some past chairs on these calls, McNeil broke new ground in several times noting that the committee was the collection of many viewpoints and each individual may differ in viewing one of the components as more important than someone else’s perspective.

Thus, strength of schedule, last 12 games, the RPI, the Nitty Gritty are all emphasized differently across the group.

“There are mathematical formulas, and some people like the math and some people really just like watching the game, and that's really what comes out in this weekend heart-to-heart dialogue that we have,” McNeil explained at one point.”

In discussing injury situations beyond the Middle Tennessee tragedy, McNeil noted that seeding might be more affected than a team actually being selected.

But again she went back to the framework of diverse opinions on the committee:

“I think that's the beauty of having 10 on the committee; no one idea is going to take over; it is going to be a decision that we will all agree on. And I think we'll all look at that differently, but because there are 10 of us I think we'll come up with the right answer.”

McNeil also noted that the committee looks at results but pays little attention to the actual score of a game in comparing a narrow win or loss to a blowout.

That said, speaking of wipeouts, let’s move to the next item.

Tigers Roar Over Quakers

Perhaps Princeton, having already clinched the Ivy title and second straight NCAA trip the previous weekend, decided to wrap up the regular season by using Penn as something less than a sparring partner at The Palestra Tuesday at sunset to get ready for the national tournament.

The Tigers prevailed 78-27 a day after the Quakers’ Alyssa Baron had received her seventh Ivy freshman of the week award.

It was the fewest points Princeton has allowed in a game since 1981 when Barnard, now Columbia, had 14. The scoring drought on the Quakers’ side was one point off of a Penn low for points in a game. It is the largest margin of victory in the series, besting the previous mark of 34.

According to the Tigers website, since the Guru didn’t get back from the A-10 tournament fast enough to witness the massacre, Princeton shot 50 percent (28-56) overall, its fifth game shooting 50 percent or better this season. Penn shot 12.9 percent (8-62). The Tigers got 35 points from their bench, had 38 points in the paint to Penn's 10, had a 20-5 differential in points off of turnovers and a 16-2 differential in second-chance points.

But Penn did make progress this season, the second under Mike McLaughlin, and the improvement of nine wins was the best-ever turnaround in Quakers history.

Holy Replay

The Guru was busy at the A-10s in Lowell, Mass., but instead of shifting over to the D2-D3 work-in-progress page, the Guru will keep it right here to note that Goldey-Beacom won again at Holy Family and claimed the Central Atlantic Collegiate Title over the Tigers.

Earlier in the season Goldey Beacom stopped Holy Family’s NCAA record run at 110 straight regular season in-conference victories and did it at the Tigers’ campus center.

So what’s Goldey Beacom’s reward for all this – the two will meet in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Massachusetts, where Holy Family must be a visitor after the loss in the conference tournament deprived the Tigers of being a host again for the East Regional.

A source familiar with the process said another team with a bad record won its tournament to be given an eighth seed and that action moved the Lightning in positing to strike Holy Family three teams.

Meanwhile, in Division III, Muhlenberg has made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA field. We’ll be back.

Mining For 33 At-Large Candidates

OK, here’s a look at Wednesday RPI and Strength of Schedule comparisons among the teams the Guru cited in Tuesday’s post.

And he would say to the West Coast follower, the Guru might not take those teams either, but as noted, went with the idea that the committee might go for certain teams.

Again, remember, conference winners are in the field and not part of this exercise. Incidentally SOS as in schedule strength will be worth noting in terms how seeding might go, though the Guru is not going in that direction yet.

Teams (Record - RPI, SOS)
**-Double Bubble


Miami (27-4, 12, 63)
Florida St. (23-7, 14, 25)
Maryland (23-7, 13, 22)
Georgia Tech (23-10, 18, 16)
North Carolina (25-8, 19, 38)
**-Boston College (18-12, 68, 58)

Atlantic 10

Temple (23-8, 37, 70)
*-Dayton (21-11, 43, 44)
**-Duquesne (22-8, 52, 89)

Big 12 – Assuming Baylor as AQ

Texas A&M (25-4, 5, 4)
Kansas State (20-9) 41, 51)
Oklahoma (20-10, 23, 14)
Iowa State (22-9, 27, 41)
Texas Tech (22-9, 21, 27)
*-Texas (19-12, 34, 13)

Big East

Notre Dame (26-7, 10, 10)
DePaul (27-6, 11, 28)
Rutgers (19-12, 22, 6)
Marquette (23-8, 26, 50)
Louisville (20-12, 39, 20)
St. John’s (21-10, 32, 33)
Georgetown (21-10, 20, 11)
*-West Virginia (23-9, 28, 46)
**-Syracuse (22-9, 56, 84)

Big Ten

Michigan State (26-5, 16, 52)
Penn State (24-9, 33, 54)
Iowa (22-8, 17, 26)
Ohio State (22-9, 9, 3)
*-Michigan (17-12, 53, 31)
*-Purdue (20-11, 48, 48)


UCLA (26-3, 8, 39)
Arizona State (19-9, 30, 30)
*-Southern Cal (18-11, 38, 18)


Kentucky (24-8, 15, 17)
Georgia (21-10, 36, 37)
Vanderbilt (20-11, 31, 19)
**-LSU (19-13,50, 29)

Total 37 – need to cut four to get to 33

One Bid League Comparisons
Should these No. 1s lose

Conf-USA – Houston (25-4, 24, 99)
CAA – James Madison (23-7,35, 74)
Horizon – Wis. Green Bay (29-1, 25, 174)
Missouri Valley –N. Iowa (24-5, 40, 115)
Mtn. West – BYU (23-7, 49, 100) or TCU (21-9, 63, 91)
Sun Belt – Middle Tennessee (23-7, 46, 93)
WAC – Louisiana Tech (23-6, 29, 79)
7 reporting.

Anyhow: That is it for now until the next 24 hours, which may be Upper Marlboro, Md., if not the next day.

-- Mel


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