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.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Guru’s WBB March Madness Package: Siroky Notes SEC Reps Top Heavy in NCAA Field

By Mike Siroky

If you take the coaches of the toughest league in America – the Southeastern – literally, the conference should about fill out the Elite Eight of the NCAA elimination tournament.

That’s because there are seven SEC teams in the draw.

In coachspeak, each one of them has said their sorority league sisters all deserve to be in it and all will make deep runs. 

What does “deep runs” mean? Two wins to the Sweet 16? Or three to the Elite Eight?


It’s a six game tournament for two of the 64.

While it is true some conferences play a season to only get its champ into the NCAA ring, the SEC does have six ranked teams in the Top 20, so they were always in. 

One of them is a No.1 seed and another is a No. 2. 

The first to be confounded was the ESPN “expert” who had two No. 1s in the SEC all along. 

Four more are Top16 seeds, which means in a normal season all six ranked team would start with two home games, a seeding edge to the Sweet 16.

The  conference has a history of having five in a given Sweet 16. All the ranked teams cannot play another ranked SEC team until then.

That kind of strength drags others into the show as well. It also means there are two conference teams in three brackets.

The Selection Committee was absolved of the yearly sham of flinging teams away from their geographic Regionals because there are no travel considerations – everyone not Covid eliminated are headed to the general San Antonio area.

We have documented in the past that geographic travel rule is only a rule until it is not. 

But 64 teams will cram into Texas for the opening rounds and that’s a lot of teams in one area. 

The first night, half of them are back on the bus, ready to write the joy of qualifying for next season’s press guides. 

And some senior players have completed a quest that has occupied more than half of their lives.

The same weekend, another half are done, although with the special COVID-19 legislation this season, many upperclass players will be back with a bonus year of eligibility.

The NCAA offered all 64 teams the opportunity to check into the San Antonio area for the duration, with eliminated teams leaving town the same night. 

Everyone accepted, optimistically packing for a 24-day trip. 

With all these games, some will play early bird schedules and some will press into the final hours each day with multiple games at gyms.

There are multiple chances to get exposed. 

Anyone contracting Covid will be eliminated with not enough time to recover for the next game. 

You must field five players to compete in  a  game. Walk-ons potentially could fill the gap. 

If not, there may be a staggered bracket. 

The NCAA posted four teams tor replace others. 

It is not sure if that could happen after two games. Can you really add someone to the Sweet 16?

Geno Auriemma leaves his team coach less to start the NCAA tournament for the first time in history for a No. 1 seed with a Covid suspension.

Let’s hope none of this matters

As for the coaches’ mantras, they all welcome not playing other conference teams right away, when they know each other’s plays and players so well.

The top four are led by No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 2 Texas A&M.

SC claimed the only guaranteed spot by winning the conference tournament. 

All the rest are at-large bids. 

A&M finished ranked No. 4 in America, an all-time high, Tennessee and Georgia should make the Sweet 16 without a doubt. 

Arkansas played a national schedule with two mammoth upsets of teams now seeded as a No. 1 and a No. 2. They have a delightful senior sniper and would also not be a surprise to win two and advance to the next round.

Kentucky has a wonderful player, too. 

The ranked teams rare the Super Six, guaranteed in the NCAAs before the league tournament.

Alabama is in its first NCAA since 2002 without an upset win in season. No team with a losing SEC record needed to apply.

There was silly speculation that two SEC teams below .500 would get in but only ESPN ever believed that. 

ESPN had Mississippi State in the tournament until the draw. 

Turns out, like most of America, State was not even considered by the Selection Committee.

The committee designated four teams – Houston, DePaul, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma, regulars in recent seasons – as replacements for any team that Covid outs in the first two games. 

They were the last four considered for the draw.

This is where coach-speak really failed.  

The Ole Miss coach, 4-10 in the league, promised to “wreck havoc” in the NCAAs. The LSU coach, 6-8 and 9-13, tried to claim a spot. 

The SEC cheerleaders on their network pulled for nine. 

By the way, ESPN broadcasters assured us in advance  six teams would be the four No. 1s 

Here’s who actually got what:

No. 6 South Carolina (No. 1 seed) vs. No. 16 Mercer of the Southern conference.

No. 4 Texas A&M (No. 2 seed) vs. No. 15 Troy of the Big Sky Conference. North Carolina State is the top seed in the bracket.

No. 10 Georgia (No. 3 seed) vs. Drexel, No. 14 of the Colonial Athletic Conference. The top seed in its bracket is Stanford.

No. 13 Tennessee (No. 3 seed) vs. No. 14 Middle Tennessee State of Conference USA. The top seed in its bracket is UConn. MTSU has two Mississippi State transfers.

No. 15 Arkansas (No. 4 seed) vs. Wright State No. 13 of the Horizon League. The top seed in its bracket is Stanford.

No. 18 Kentucky (No. 4 seed) vs. Idaho State No. 13 of the Big Sky conference. The top seed in its bracket is UConn.

Alabama (No. 7 seed) vs. North Carolina, No. 10 of the ACC. 

The top seed in its bracket is South Carolina. 

Texas, coached by Vic Schaefer is a potential Sweet 16 game. It is unlikely the SEC team gifted with the annual SEC invite can win a game.


We will report on each game the night it is played



Among the others in the field is Big Ten champ Maryland who this season benefitted from the transfer in from Mississippi State senior Chloe Bibby. She scored 15 with nine rebounds in the Big Ten title game. She averaged 14.1 for the season for the best scoring team in the nation (91.3).

South Carolina signee Raven Johnson, part of the top recruiting class in America, won the Naismith high school award. A McDonald’s High School All-American from Georgia, she averaged 15.3 points, five rebounds,5.7 assists and 3.7 steals.

Several college players are still in final consideration for All-America teams and several individual awards.

The Wooden National Player of the Year has 15 finalists with three from the SEC: Chelsea Dungee (Arkansas), Aliyah Boston (South Carolina) and Rhyne Howard (Kentucky), the trio that includes the three most mentioned players as the best in conference this season.

Howard and Rennia Davis (Tennessee) are among the five finalists for the Cheryl Miller Award, which honors the best small forward. It is administered by the Naismith Hall of Fame.

The Dawn Staley Award is granted by the Phoenix Club of Philadelphia. It is the only award named after a still-active coach. Part of its qualifications is focused on the “ability to distribute the basketball and the will to win.” Howard is a finalist.

Jasmine Walker of Alabama is one of the five finalists for the Katrina McClain Award, which honors the top power forward. 

 The Wade Trophy is the oldest women’s basketball individual award. The WBCA All-America and other national honors will be announced at the Final Four. It is not yet known if a presentation ceremony will be allowed due to Covid restrictions, though all major organizations, including the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), which holds ceremonies and both the men’s and women’s finals, were giving preliminary indications, all events were likely to be zoom presentations and may be even held off until after the tournaments conclude.



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