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.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Guru's NCAA Report: An In-House Change Might Mean Former Rivals Colliding Earlier in NCAA Tourney

By Mel Greenberg

Decisions by the NCAA women's basketball tournament committee were released Thursday on the future of the showcase event spurred by the White Paper research document of former WNBA president that became public several weeks prior to her hire in June as commissioner of the re-vamped Big East Conference.

Highlights beginning next year are returns to the format of top 16 seeded teams hosting the first two rounds and a rollback to the Friday-Sunday competition of the Women's Final Four from the current Sunday-Tuesday night dates that follow the tournament.

Consequently the preceding weekends of opening round play and the regional Sweet 16 and Elite Eight events will also roll back to stay in synch.

Shot down by either vote or no-vote were the suggestions to finish up a week after the men's tournament and also reducing the four regionals to two super-site regionals of eight teams each, of which Doug Feinberg, the Associated Press national women's basketball reporter, revealed the latter in his coverage.

Though the Guru has yet to troll the waters for further information, he suspects the whims of national TV partner ESPN were probably influential in terms of what got approved or disapproved on the heels of recommendations by the recent gathering of administrators, key coaches, referees and TV executives to discuss Ackerman's conclusions.

It is not known at this writing but maybe soon enough whether using a rotation of cities to host regionals and then a Final Four is still alive as a concept.

The basketball committee did say that after the exception this year, regionals should be played on neutral sites, per the urging from the coaches in the sport, a move that could help the mega bid Philadelphia has been dealing to get key weekends of the women's tournament as part of an effort to land a bundle of NCAA championships in other sports.

One thing likely to happen, but not finalized yet, according to a Guru source, is the rollback of dates is likely to see a return of Selection Sunday -- the same day the men's field is announced -- from Monday nights.

While the Monday setup has given the women their own day to feature the release of the 64-team field and draw, several knowledgeable sources have told the Guru that even in the face of the tumult that comes several hours later on Sunday when the men's field is announced, the women's selection show had better TV ratings prior to the change.

Principle and Procedures Amended

But while that addressed the future, a situation, not announced, involving this season's tournament was dealt with concerning the impact of the mega conference shuffle, which began to occur after Ackerman was given her mission with the White Paper.

The breakup of the old Big East, additions in the Atlantic Coast Conference, both of which affected many of the top women's team, and even some action off Conference USA and the Colonial Athletic Association, had a major impact on how the men's and women's committees put their draws together.

The women are going to follow changes made by the men's committee last summer in terms of when teams from the same conferences can meet.

One difference that had existed and will continue is while the men seed their field of 68 and then use the S curve to balance the pairings (1 meets the lowest team in the opening round), the women seed 64 teams but then with four teams at a time the committee places then in proximity to the geographical locations of the regional.

This all came to light in 2007 when it was thought the women's committee operated as the men until four teams in the Top 10 rankings landed in the Cleveland regional.

Several mock brackets later, the media and coaches came to understand the difference and how to adjust their own projections of the women's field.

But another problem emerged to give the women's committee headaches with super powers galore in such places as the old Big East, the ACC, the Southeastern Conference, and the Big 12, coupled with lower seeds hosting early rounds allowed to be in their arenas against higher seeded teams.

Now one can imagine the added difficulty dealing with the new map of NCAA competition in terms of keeping similar conference teams apart from facing each other until deep in the pairings.

But it appears the women are going to adjust as follows: If teams meet only once in conference play also including the conference tournament which would be caused by an upset, then they could meet as early in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

If they meet twice, either double round-robin but not in the conference tourney, or in single round-robin and the conference tourney, they could meet in the round of 16. And if they meet in league play three times, double round-robin and the conference tourney, they cannot meet until the Elite Eight.

Given the implosion of the Big East and the expansion of the ACC, here's how this would play out in the real world involving some teams likely to make the field in most years.

Connecticut, the preseason favorite to repeat, Rutgers, and Louisville, formerly with the Big East, are now with The American. Meanwhile, Notre Dame and Syracuse are over in the ACC, while DePaul, St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, and Villanova are with the new-look Big East.

Now given that seeding gets done first and some of these teams are all likely to be on the high end and would be apart anyway such as UConn and Notre Dame, it would be possible for Connecticut and Villanova, for example, to play in the second round.

Same for Syracuse and UConn or Syracuse and Villanova.

If Old Dominion, now in Conference USA, makes the field, the Lady Monarchs could see the CAA champion earlier than they would have in the past -- though that chance was slim anyway given the way the mid-major CAA has been treated in terms of multiple worthy teams.

Next year some more moves will mean Rutgers and Maryland in the Big Ten and Louisville in the ACC could also see certain teams earlier than before.

Maryland could see the Terps former ACC rivals earlier.

But still, the season has to play out and remember this time around the early round sites have been pre-determined.

While in the future good teams will be rewarded with top 16 seeds -- which means 1-4 in each regional column, perhaps this is going to propel expenses because depending where the rest of the field is emerging geographically, they will all have to be matched to the existing top four seeds per region hosting early rounds.

OK. Class dismissed. Any questions, that's what twitter and email are for.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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