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.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Guru's Musings: Few Wrong Conference Winners Aiding NCAA Selection Process

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Thoughts and observations while waiting for the the NCAA and WNIT decrees to become public Monday night …

When NCAA women’s basketball head Anucha Browne tweeted an all-done with a selfie of the Division I tournament committee crowd at a reasonable late hour Sunday night, that moment seemed to reflect that thanks to few wrong winners and the way conference tournaments and standings played out, the group was able to get to the actual seeding process quicker than usual and spend less time figuring out the complete field.

For example, there are clear standings breaks in each of the newly-labeled Power 5 – Atlantic Coast, Big 10, Pac-12, Southeastern and Big 12 – that when adds up all the at-large candidates out of that group and then adds Dayton (A-10), and Seton Hall (Big East), one gets to 30 of 32 available slots.

Gonzaga out of the West Coast was the only needing a St. Bernard with a barrel strapped to its chest to come out up the slopes and rescue the Zags, the only true bubble buster that cost someone a slot.

But maybe not because in losing out to BYU from deeper in the West Coast standings, Gonzaga saved the committee from protracted debate to fill the last slot.

Some was still needed and Charlie Crème is right in saying one had to pull apart the negatives.

Tulane may be the last one in or Arkansas, assuming unlike an earlier time, the committee goes for overall profile instead of being turned off by the 6-10 Razorbacks record in the SEC.

“If it comes out different, we might see the committee break away from past traditions in taking either some teams with deeper losing records in conference or going further down in the well in terms of picking teams whose RPIs are beyond the cutoff area of previous teams taken,” said an official with the WNIT, whose group is waiting to grab the leftovers for its 64-team tourney.

Ole Same Ole Same Ole There will be a curiosity to see if Tennessee, expected to be a 2-seed, gets put on a collision course with Connecticu, that would have the two meet for the first time since the famed rivalry ended in 2007 in either a region title game, a national semifinal, or all the marbles in Tampa if both win out on their respective paths.

It’s Yesterday Once More The tournament format and calendar starts going back in time this year with the top 16 seeds hosting the first two rounds, win or lose openers, unless arenas aren’t available as in the case with projected Top 16 seed Louisville and bubble projected Top 16 seed Ohio State.

Furthermore, the tournament weekend for the first two rounds will run Friday-Monday instead of Saturday-Tuesday.

Keep an ear out for the first complaints from those coaches getting Friday kickoffs, thereby a shorter turnaround from a Monday announcement that used to be Selection Sunday when a similar calendar previously existed.

And since such factors as Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman’s White Paper and people not happy with the looks of places that became neutral venues when the host team of a predetermined site did not make the field, attendance this weekend at some point will become a side story.

And to turn the coin over, if attendance is great, let’s see if carping returns by visiting coaches saying the other side has a built-in advantage, which is the reason why the NCAA tried to get away from the format in the past.

Whatever Happened To … The final Associated Press women’s poll of the season comes out early Monday afternoon with the only change likely is perhaps Seton Hall, which lost to DePaul in the Big East title game and was ranked No. 24, gets bumped by South Florida, which gave an impressive stand against UConn Monday night in the American Athletic Conference title game.

The coaches have one more poll after the NCAA title game, which is a bit silly because the champion is declared No. 1 to get the big WBCA trophy besides the hardware from the NCAA.

There will be all sorts of stories attached to this final AP poll, which the Guru will present Wednesday after spending the next24 hours on the tournament draw.

Already, such traditional heavyweights as Stanford, North Carolina, Duke and Texas A&M will likely finish with their lowest ranking in years.

Whither Princeton -- The Guru, besides ESPN, will be at the Princeton watch party where one of the big stories of the night occurs beyond the naming of the No. 1 seeds – no suspense Connecticut, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and likely Maryland, if not Tennessee.

The Tigers, the only Ivy men’s or women’s team to hit the NCAA start at 30-0 and only Ivy women’s team to ever get nationally ranked, could land a top 16 or even a seed opposite Louisville or Ohio State to also get to host games this weekend in Jadwin Gym.

However it plays out Princeton should get the highest seed ever for an Ivy team and the question will be will the Tigers be in a winnable situation after falling short in the previous four-peat Ivy title run 2010-13.

Carpet Baggers -- True, the conference shuffles of recent seasons were fueled by the football genre, but women’s basketball had to go along for the ride and some made the most of it.

A year ago, Notre Dame went unbeaten and captured the ACC and then repeated this time though with one blemish in conference competition.

Maryland went unbeaten through the tournament championship to celebrate its first year in the Big 10.

DePaul didn’t go anywhere but most of the major impediments of the old Big East removed, the Demons have won the conference twice.

Quinnipiac, which won the Northeast Conference in a previous life, this season captured the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

New Kids and Old New Kids on the Block George Washington, after a long absence, returned to the polls and captured the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Chattanooga claimed Tennessee and Stanford victims to become a mid-major poster child and make Jim Foster the first coach to get four different teams appear in the AP poll.

Mississippi State had a breakthrough year under Vic Schafer, a former aide to Texas A&M’s Gary Blair.

Though Stanford won the conference tournament thanks to someone else knocking out top seed Oregon State, this was the best year in some time for the PAC-12 with California, Oregon State, Arizona State, and Washington likely to all be in the field with the champion Cardinal.

Joe McKeown’s Northwestern program blossomed and Kevin McGuff’s Ohio State team arrived on schedule despite several key injuries occurred early.

Suzie McConnell-Serio, the former Penn State star who had several NCAA near misses at Duquesne is likely to have her Pittsburgh squad called after the Panthers made headway in the ACC this season.

Teams We’d Like to See Together Projected seed levels would preclude it but it would be fun story-wise for McKeown’s Wildcats to be in the same group with George Washington, his previous stop of success.

Florida State and Seton Hall would have the two central figures in the big offseason transfer controversies in Leticia Romero at Florida State after finally being let go by Kansas State and Daisha Simmons of Seton Hall, who likewise had trouble gaining instant eligibility after leaving Alabama.

Ohio State and George Washington with Notre Dame would have the Irish’s Muffet McGraw reunited with former aides Kevin McGuff and Jonathan Tsipis.

Courage Award One Likely to land in the WNIT, it would be nice to see a long run from Richmond, which had a decent season considering the Spiders were coping with the loss of longtime associate head coach Ginny Doyle and operations director Natalie Lewis in last May’s tragic balloon accident in Virginia near the state capital.

Courage Award Two The Guru closes this out where he began the season back in November giving Division III Mount St. Joseph’s freshman Lauren Hill the United States Basketball Writers Association Most Courageous Award at the season opener in Cincinnati at Xavier University’s Cintas Center in a game moved up so she would be able to play.

Hill’s coach Dan Benjamin, incidentally, will be part of the awards program at the Final Four in Tampa.

Given a prognosis of not being able to survive a pediatric brain cancer tumor past early December, Hill continued to be part of the active team until not being able to play anymore.

She also helped raise over $1 million to help combat the disease and given that prognosis, Lauren is still with us all the way into March Madness, a special triumph for the moment.

That’s It Until Later Monday.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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