(Guru's note: After mid-morning passes, a post above this has the Atlantic 10 honorees, which will also be at the conference website.)
By Mel Greenberg
Phase Two for Delaware’s ambition season with junior sensation Elena Delle Donne concludes Wednesday night at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., as the regular season in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Meanwhile, Drexel (15-12, 11-16 CAA) will be trying to take a shot at moving up one more seed position when the Dragons host Virginia Commonwealth (16-12, 9-8) at the Daskalakis Athletic Center at 7 p.m.
By winning last Sunday Drexel clinched the fourth seed in next week’s conference tournament capturing the last available bye to skip the first round, which begins Thursday at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.
But if the Dragons win and Hofstra (19-9, 11-6) loses Wednesday to Northeastern (7-21, 5-12), the unlikely upset would create a switch in seedings with Drexel moving to a three and the Pride down to a No. 4.
That switch would then put Drexel on a path that if the Dragons advance they would most likely, baring an upset, meet No. 2 James Madison (22-6, 13-4). Coach Denise Dillon’s squad captured a first-ever regular-season win at JMU but lost to the Dukes at home in overtime.
Drexel, unless it were to win the CAA tournament and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, most likely can get another bid to the WNIT with a strong finish.
Delaware (17-0, 26-1), meanwhile is having a landmark season breaking team records while Delle Donne has continued to lead the nation in scoring.
Phase One was navigating an upgraded nonconference schedule in which the Blue Hens’ only loss was in the closing minutes at Maryland in December,
An upset of then-No. 11 Penn State, which has since become the Big Ten regular season champion, helped propel the Blue Hens into a first-ever appearance in the AP Women’s Poll and coach Tina Martin’s team has climbed all the way up to No. 8 in this week’s ranking.
Coming into conference play, Delaware astounded by having a No. 1 ranking in the RPI and also No. 1 in strength of schedule.
However, for those who earlier had mocked Delle Donne playing in the CAA , which is seventh just below the BCS group, the conference has shown some strength because Delaware has managed to dip to just numbers of six and seven in RPI strength while going against CAA opponents.
By contrast, Princeton, another outstanding Mid-Major team, has been dragged down to 32 by Ivy opponents and while the Tigers still have one of the best individual RPI rankings in Ivy history, if not the best, they were in the high teens before having to deal with the league.
As for Phase Two, a win Wednesday night enables Delaware to finish unbeaten in the CAA and also set a school mark for overall wins in a season.
Delaware, a Cinderella team advancing to the CAA title game last season before losing to two-time champion James Madison, is already assured an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if the Blue Hens get tripped up in the conference tournament, a competition that can be called Phase Three on Delaware’s check list.
At the moment the Blue Hens are being projected as a potential No. 3 seed in the NCAA field.
AP Poll Trivia
Because the Guru was traveling and also working on coverage for Full Court (fullcourt.com) at the Notre Dame-UConn season finale for the Big East title in Hartford, the late night precluded offering some trivia notes out of this week’s AP women’s poll.
This week top-ranked Baylor and No. 5 Duke tied Long Beach for 14th in total Top 5 appearances with 60 each.
Baylor also tied Virginia for seventh with total No. 1 appearances at 24.
Duke tied Vanderbilt for all-time appearances as 11th with 343 appearances.
Maryland, which is eighth in Top 10 appearances, reached its 200th.
Tara VanDevereer at Stanford moved into third place ahead of retired Texas coach Jody Conradt with 377 poll appearances guiding the Cardinal in terms of earning a ranking at the same institution.
She also has numbers from coach Ohio State prior to taking the Stanford job.
Princeton just missed getting a ranking this week by one point after clinching a third Ivy title. However, if the coach Courtney Banghart’s team sweeps Brown and Yale on the road it is likely to become the first Ivy team to get ranked because several teams at the bottom of the Top 25 are not likely to make it through their respective conference tournaments.
Conference Tourneys: The First Wave
Speaking of Princeton, after getting first in line among 31 conference champions to get an automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA tournament, the Tigers will be joined by several other conference winners by Tuesday.
The Ivy League is the only one which does not have a postseason playoff to win the automatic slot.
The conference action will be spoken to deeper here and daily beginning in a few days but here are the groups in play this weekend.
The Big East set a record with nine reps last year to the Big Dance. The number may be one less but in a group that has had as many as seven teams ranked this season, this event in Hartford will be a warmup to the NCAAs.
Furthermore there will be drama coming on the heels of Notre Dame winning a first-ever regular season crown Monday night by beating UConn, which has had a monopoly on trophies from the conference.
So it will be interesting to see if a third meeting develops as it did last year, Everyone is out to improve their seed position while West Virginia is trying to make a run to become an eighth contender for an NCAA slot.
Depending what happens in the offseason this could be the farewell appearance for Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which are headed to the Atlantic Coast as fast as they can exit, while West Virginia already has its visa to emigrate to the Big 12.
If rumors become fact, Temple could be moving in from the Atlantic 10.
Villanova is the 10th seed and will open Friday playing Seton Hall.
The Atlantic Coast has top-seed Duke and second-seed Miami and third-seed Maryland all angling to win and take a potential shot at a No. 1 NCAA seed if UConn suffers an ugly fate in the Big East on one of its two home courts.
Georgia Tech, the fourth seed, is likely headed back to the NCAAs while Virginia and North Carolina, though projected to the Big Dance by some, will be trying to leave things out of the hands of the NCAA selection committee.
In the America East, Boston U is the top seed in a one-bid league and the Terriers must win to land in the field of 64.
In the Atlantic 10, being held at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia, beginning Friday, St. Bonaventure, the regular season champ, is a lock – auto bid or not. Second-seeded Temple has been projected while third-seed Dayton is on the bubble and may need to get to the title game. The host Hawks are looking to become Cinderella while several others in Charlotte, Richmond and Duquesne could cause trouble.
In the Atlantic Sun, Florida Gulf Coast, the top seed, has a fantastic year but the schedule is weak so the first-time Division I competitors need to win in a one-bid league.
In the Big Ten, Penn State restored to its past glory won the top seed and is a lock to get to the NCAAs as is Ohio State, Purdue and Nebraska, the rookie school that moved from the Big 12. Several others such as Iowa and the Michigans could find their way to postseason glory though it is still hard to believe that the committee will make projectionists look good off their deep multiple bid forecasts.
The Metro Atlantic is a one-bid league and top-seeded Marist is not in the at-large discussion this year.
The Patriot League, whose top-seeded American is the favorite, gets under way this week but concludes next week at the site of the highest surviving seed.
The Ohio Valley is a one-bid league whose winner will check in with a Dance ticker Saturday afternoon.
The Southeastern has intrigue and multiple aspirants. Kentucky beat out Tennessee for the No. 1 seed, but both teams will land in the NCAA and are after high seeding in the Dance field. Georgia and South Carolina are also in lock mode for the NCAA while Arkansas and Florida could also factor.
The Southern Conference and Sun Belt are one-bid events though Middle Tennessee resides in the Sun Belt so keep an eye here for trouble for someone elsewhere if a wrong winner emerges.
The same goes in the West Coast, which has Gonzaga as the top seed. Though BYU had been in play, this now appears to be a one-bid event if the Zags repeat as champions.
OK, start your brackets and the Guru will be back in a few hours with the Atlantic 10 postseason individual winners and will be tweeting @womhoopsguru from the Drexel game Wednesday night.