Figuring out whether the University of Wisconsin women's basketball team is in the NCAA tournament has been like walking around like a chicken with its head cut off. The bracketologists all say that the Badgers are in and could be seeded as high as eighth. But those people who have inside connections to the NCAA selection committee say that the UW is still on the bubble and a lot will depend upon how the remaining conference tournaments play out. If the favorites win, the Badgers are in. If there are too many upsets, Wisconsin could drop out of the bracket. Many conference tournaments run right up until Sunday so the Badgers could be hanging by a thread until Monday's selection show.
The 64 teams for the 2010 NCAA Tournament will be announced on Monday live on ESPN at 6 p.m. Wisconsin is looking for its seventh NCAA tournament appearance and it's first since 2002. The Badgers are 2-6 in six appearances.
When looking at the selection process, it reminds me a of a spider web - everything is related and if one string breaks then someone might fall off.
First, start with the fact that 33 of the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament receive automatic bids as the champions of their respective conferences. Whether or not these teams deserve to even be in the post-season can be debated. The perfect example of that is Austin Peay, which won the Ohio Valley Conference with a 15-17 record, upsetting top-seeded Eastern Illinois in the championship game. With a winning percentage of less than .500, the Lady Governors (I kid you not!) would not be eligible for an at-large bid.
Other conference champions are well deserving of their automatic bids. Ohio State will represent the Big Ten Conference as the tournament champion while Duke won the Atlantic Coast Conference, Tennessee won the Southeastern Conference, Xavier won the Atlantic 10 Conference and Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference. As of Tuesday, only 10 conferences had crowned champions while the remaining tournaments will be held this week.
The remaining 33 "best" (an NCAA word) teams are selected on an at-large basis, regardless of conference affiliation. The selection is made by the 10-person Division I Women's Basketball Committee, which receives reports from regional advisory committees comprised of coaches from the 31 Division I conferences. The Big Ten representative is Felisha Legette-Jack from Indiana.
The Big Ten has sent an average of five teams to the post-season classic in the last 10 years. In 2009, five teams competed with Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue advancing to the Sweet 16. In 2008, four teams qualified while in 2007, the league sent only three teams to NCAAs, the fewest Big Ten teams since 1989.
With its Big Ten Tournament title, Ohio State improved to 30-4 overall and won the regular season conference title at 15-3. Michigan State finished second in the regular-season standings at 12-6 and is currently 22-9 overall. The Badgers tied for third with Iowa in the regular-season Big Ten standings at 10-8, but Wisconsin is 21-10 overall while the Hawkeyes are 19-13. Purdue, which finished fifth in the conference at 9-9, does not qualify for the NCAA tournament since its overall record is 14-16, while Penn State and Michigan tied for sixth at 8-10. Both teams are 17-13 overall.
According to the NCAA's Division I Women's Basketball handbook, resources that the committee uses to select teams include "box scores, game summaries and notes, various computer rankings, head-to-head results, chronological results, Division I results, non-conference results, home and away results, results in the last 12 games, rankings, polls and the coaches' regional advisory committee rankings."
The committee also takes into account late-season injuries, which may affect a team's success in the tournament.
Here is something the Big Ten Conference Office submitted to the regional advisory committee.
University of Wisconsin (21-10, 10-8 Big Ten, RPI No. 30)
Wisconsin is enjoying its first 20-win season since 2006-07 and its second since 2001-02. The Badgers faced several early tests, playing six straight games away from home from Nov. 27 to Dec. 11, during which they went 5-1. Among that stretch were wins over NC State (RPI No. 35) during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and a victory over in-state rival Marquette (RPI No. 56). UW was 10-1 during the non-conference season.
During the conference slate, Wisconsin swept Michigan State (RPI No. 16), winning at home by eight points and on the road by three. The Badgers also went 2-0 against Michigan (RPI No. 52).
Wisconsin did not lose a game to a team ranked outside of the RPI's top 100 (2-3 vs. top 25; 0-2 vs. 26-50 and 12-5 vs. 51-100), and its 10 losses came by an average of 6.9 points, including a two-point loss to UW-Green Bay (RPI No. 64 and top seed in the Horizon League tournament), a one-point loss to Illinois (RPI No. 62) and a five-point loss to Ohio State (RPI No. 9).
The Badgers earned a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, opening play with a 73-51 win over Purdue. Wisconsin faced top-seeded Ohio State and held a lead for a good portion of the game until falling into foul trouble late. UW finished the season 12-5 on the road (away and neutral), setting a school record for road wins.
The Badgers are currently ranked 30th in the NCAA RPI and also receive one vote in the Associated Press poll this week. Wisconsin is 6-6 in its last 12 games, including a 5-2 mark on the road.
So, does that get Wisconsin into the NCAA tournament? You're guess is as good as mine. In the meantime, I'll go back to watching the results and have my fingers crossed on Monday.
champion, championship match-up or date of championship)
American East (Harford vs. Vermont-Sunday)
Atlantic Coast (Duke)
Atlantic Sun (East Tennessee State)
Atlantic 10 (Xavier)
Big East (Connecticut)
Big Sky (Saturday)
Big South (Sunday)
Big Ten (Ohio State)
Big 12 (Sunday)
Big West (Saturday)
Colonial Athletic Association (Sunday)
Conference USA (Friday)
Horizon League (Sunday)
Ivy League (Princeton)
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (Marist)
Mid-Eastern Athletic (Saturday)
Missouri Valley (Sunday)
Mountain West (Saturday)
Northeast Conference (St. Francis vs. Long Island - Sunday)
Ohio Valley (Austin Peay)
Patriot League (American vs. Lehigh - Saturday)
Southwestern Athletic (Saturday)
Sun Belt (Middle Tennessee)
The Summit League (South Dakota State)
West Coast (Gonzaga)
Western Athletic (Saturday)