Some Guru's Musings on Val Ackerman's NCAA White Paper
By Mel Greenberg
So finally having had a little time to start dipping into founding WNBA comissioner (and maybe future Big East commissioner) Val Ackerman's white paper for the NCAA on women's basketball, the Guru can begin with some reaction.
Since he hasn't gone through all of it yet, he will just use his musings column such as this one to make comments from time to time or sooner depending on how quickly recommendations are being implemented.
But some caveats: The Guru and Val go way back in time and she has always been one offering great support in his endeavors and the NCAA choice of her to do the research and findings is well deserved.
So consider all these things to come as just observations from the Guru's perspective and not meant to take issue with her comprehensive work.
It will be quite interesting this week to see what comes out of the NCAA women's basketball committee's meeting in Nashville considering it already had a full plate of issues caused by conference shifts, notably the Big East implosion, before Ackerman's report was released last week.
For example, did you know if the committee wanted to do so, it could slot the new-look Big East as one of the Mideast geographical conferences in terms of organizing tracking structure for the 2014 tournament.
The new Big East now has five Atlantic seaboard teams -- St. John's, Villanova, Georgetown, Providence and Seton Hall. And it has five Mideast members: DePaul, Marquette, Butler, Creighton, and Xavier.
On the other hand, though The American (aka American Athletic Conference) has just Temple, Connecticut and, for one year, Rutgers, as seaboard teams, it likely will be an Eastern-based conference.
Also, take note that work has to be done on the notorious principles and procedures though the committee may keep things in place and see how it all plays out on the first go-round.
But consider this -- the veteran new Big East teams making the tournament do not have to be kept apart from such AAC people as Connecticut, and, for one year, Rutgers and Louisville, in earlier rounds because they are no longer in the same group.
Likewise for either side in terms of Syracuse and Notre Dame, which are about to begin life in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Similar issues exist in Conference USA, the Sun Belt, Mountain West, and Western Athletic Conference, although the total number of teams from the group who make the field have been far less than the Easterners in recent years.
Now moving on to the one of the suggestions made by Ackerman that the schedule should be housed in one semester beginning in early December.
Coincidentally, this has beeen a Guru subtle thought for some time from the days he did the national schedule for the Associated Press -- not create the games but to list the calendar -- and saw certain nuances.
This is as much as problem as to the sport itself as it is getting buried at the outset by attention to college football, the baseball postseason, and the stretch drive toward the Super Bowl in the NFL.
Basically, in October, momentum begins to build at conference media days -- and Val didn't address this but given the scant national media survivors who can still get around it would be nice to avoid conflicts with major draws occuring the same day.
Then we go into the preseason outlooks and they almost have to begin earlier than in the past years because the front end of the schedule occurs earlier with the likes of the preseason WNIT and other events.
Last year the AP preseason women's poll had an October date attached for the first time instead of mid-November, which occurred until recent times.
Then heading through Thanksgiving we have the openers and excitment generated in the traditional hotbeds -- in the old days there were a zillion tournaments the first few weekends.
There are some glamour matchups generated by such events as the annual Jimmy V game propelled by ESPN.
So just when we have takent off and are airborne through all that -- BAM -- it all comes to a virtual dead stop as the schedule hits a lull anwhere from seven-12 plus days as players hit the books for finals.
Then a few smathering of games, much of little consequence but to stay loose, heading into another break where virtually everything shuts down from Christmas Eve through the next four days.
So, in essence it all starts over again from that point and then careens right into the start of conference play, the real nitty gritty time, as the New Year arrives.
Starting later and just keep going might create a bigger force all the way to whateverf Madness will be attached to in the future.
The Guru is not in favor of front-ending in the other direction and then using quiet February for the tournament.
What has been nice about quiet February is that is time to build to the storylines that will highlight March and the first few weeks of April.
Otherwise, you'd be coming out of a virtual cave if the tournament began in February because the general public would have no idea who these teams are and what they have been doing to pick up the pace.
So that's what the Guru says about that portion of the white paper.
Ackerman talked about attendance in the tournament in early rounds and the variances but in doing the whole look from the beginning of the NCAA womern in 1982 the tournament started in smaller size and through the years the early rounds had different structures.
ESPN Championship Ratings Decline
So it was interesting that there never was a release from the big sports network after the Women's Final Four like their usually is and the answer lies in a statistic on page 10 of the White Paper.
The Connecticut-Louisville matchup won by UConn had a 2.36, which was the lowest number since those one-time Big East rivals played in 2009 and drew a 2.09.
So maybe UConn's Geno Auriemma and Louisville's Jeff Walz might get better results if both worked in the kitchen of Geno's restaurants.
The list went back to 2004, the final of the three Diana Taurasi/UConn run of titles when the Huskies met Tennessee and drew the all-time high in the span at 4.28.
Tennessee-Stanford drew a 2.98 in 2008 so given that Tennessee-Rutgers drew a lowly 2.30, which, unfortunately for subsequent events included Don Imus as a brief watcher, last April's title game was the third lowest in the past decade's worth of years.
And that brings a question as to something the Guru thought might appear as a concept for discussion -- re--seeding the Final Four.
Numbers for the semifinals weren't available but if UConn and Notre Dame in reaching the Final Four in New Orleans in the wake of Louisville taking down Baylor had been re-seeded as is done in the NFL and hockey through their progressions, since many thought that was the "real" championship, might the number had been bigger?
Other things not brought up in the white paper but certainly have interest is how teams get picked for the tournament in the at-large group, considering the impact on current RPI determinants about to happen through the conference re-shuffle.
Championship Site and Growth and the White Paper
Ackerman says an experiment should occur in putting the men and women in the same city.
That was tried in proximity in 1989 when the Final Four was held in Tacoma held just down the road -- and a busy one at that when Boeing workshifts end -- from Seattle.
The women got buried in coverage and we said let's not do that again.
But the Guru has come around on that because the huge decline of papers that no longer send their reporters if a local team is not involved or the location is too expense to travel -- though expensive in some newspapers involve punching a train ticket or buying two tanks of gas.
People covering the men's tournament might to some degree cover some of the women's tournament but as Val says, let's try it and see what we get.
Also, Val lists different stages of growth but left out when the tournament jumped from 48 to 64 teams, which, at that point gave every conference an automatic qualifier and thus began to fuel some more grass roots interest since their conference championships now had some meaning for the postseason.
Speaking of conference media days as mentioned far above, the Guru hears that now that The American has settled on the Mohegan Sun for its women's tournament, it may give the schools and media and early taste -- pun intended -- by holding its first media day at Mohegan in the fall.
Summer League night number three is Tuesday with coverage here by sunrise Wednesday. Only three teams out of the 13 are quickly the only ones left among the unbeaten but none will play each other at the Bolish Gym in Hatboro, Pa., near the Pennslvania Turnpike Route 611 Willow Grove exit.
OK, that's it till the next blog.
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