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, March 14, 2014

Mike Siroky Musings: The Field Anxiously Awaits

By Mike Siroky

For one women’s basketball team in America, there are six wins left.

For everyone else, five is the max.

That’s the simplicity by which 64 coaches must approach the NCAA tournament countdown, which begins next Saturday. And one game at a time.

Maybe a scouting report developed for a second game by a different assistant coach.

History tells us two former Big East teams – UConn and Notre Dame – have the best shots at being the team with six more wins.

Each are undefeated right now, so there will be only one undefeated team (if any) on the evening of April 8 in Nashville, as confetti decorates the floor and any of a dozen or so young athletes, in the prime of their lives have the highlight of those lives, trying on new hats and T-shirts on court, pointing to the stands at parents and other loved ones, hooting loud enough to be heard back home on campus.

If the coach is a first-time championship coach, that coach has just punched an admission to the Women’ College Basketball Hall of Fame because that non-exclusive club inducts all the titlists, regardless of other pedigree.

As the draw is announced, it will be no surprise that UConn is the No. 1 of all No. 1s and is placed in either Lincoln, Neb., or Louisville, closest to home for the tournament after the sub-Regional.

If they are not No. 1 in Louisville, then Tennessee will be. Either way, that pushes the home Cardinals to the No. 2 seed, irregardless if they are the worst No. 2 seed, as should be the procedure.

Muddying up everything in the unbalanced women’s game, of course, is the idea that the NCAA still must make money, so – in this last year of allowing colleges to host on-campus Regionals – the NCAA still wants as many tickets sold as possible.

Tennessee at home then to Louisville with the Final four in Nashville follows this circuit.

The men’s game mandates against home teams. It is doubtful the women’s game will ever get there.

The NCAA also does not set in stone the feeds from the sub-Regionals as they keep the option to move a feeder if a team wins a top seed; Tennessee is a prime example. The men set their sites and don’t mess around, unworried about ticket sales.

UConn has a sub-Regional in its hometown of Storrs. Notre Dame has a Regional at home. Each would be likely into the Sweet 16 without these advantages.

Notre Dame should have the last of the No. 2s coming there. If that is so, then likely South Carolina played its way into that position and is a strong team when it wants to be, despite having lost two of its past three games.

Tennessee has brought a No. 1 seed back to the formidable Southeastern Conference by winning the championship in the post-season tournament and is to be a No. 1 with its own sub-Regional.

The conference champ earns the automatic bid which ends any discussion between No. 4 Tennessee and regular-season best No. 8 South Carolina.

No. 6 Stanford, always the best in the West despite faltering to conference rival California last year, had been in three straight Final Fours before that and is likely to be there again after hosting its Regional.

This is still the desirous Regional for other teams.

If you count the national rankings, No. 5 West Virginia (another former Big East team), No. 11 Maryland (next year in the Big Ten) and No. 9 Duke (ACC runnerup to Notre Dame) should be the No. 2s under consideration for Lincoln and Stanford.

The Southeastern projects to get eight tournament teams and will, all of the quarterfinalists.

The Big Ten projects to get five and will, all of the ranked teams.

Right now, the ranked teams in the SEC are Tennessee (27-5), South Carolina (27-8) No. 10 Kentucky 24-8) and No. 15 Texas A&M (24-8). Kentucky, A&M and unranked LSU all also have sub-Regionals.

Right now, the ranked teams in the B1G are No. 13 and Big Ten champ Nebraska (25-6), No. 14 Penn State (22-7), No. 17 Purdue (21-8), No. 19 Iowa (26-8) and No. 20 Michigan State (22-9). Iowa, Penn State and Purdue have home sub-Regionals.

Yes, you read it correctly; the Big Ten has more ranked teams than does the SEC. That will change by tournament’s end as the SEC had six ranked teams most of the season.

So, in a way, the strongest league gets to play the underdog card part of the time to start. With a strong visitor invited there, maybe even Notre Dame. LSU is very threatened to not win its sub-Regional and Purdue will also have a better team in West Lafayette.

None of these teams can lose for now. All get to practice some extra days and will update their recruiting information.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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