As the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee prepares to assemble in Indianapolis this weekend to begin the selection, seeding and bracketing process for the 2014 championship, many questions remain to be answered over the next several days regarding automatic bids and at-large selections.
While Albany, Baylor, Chattanooga, Connecticut, DePaul, Fordham, Gonzaga, Marist, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Penn, South Dakota, Tennessee, UT Martin, USC and Winthrop have punched their ticket to the dance, 16 more conference tournaments and subsequent bids remain in the balance this week. For those teams on the outside looking in, they won’t know if they have received one of the 32 at-large bids until Selection Monday, March 17, when the 64 team bracket is announced at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Perhaps the most popular question asked by sports fans in March is, "How does the NCAA pick the teams for the March Madness?" For a chance to look behind the curtain to see how the teams are selected, seeded and bracketed, go to the following link.
Search for perfection
For the second time in NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship history, two teams will enter the tournament undefeated, as Connecticut (34-0) and Notre Dame (32-0) will have the opportunity to be the eighth team all-time to run the table on a season. This week, both both teams won their respective conference tournaments, with the Huskies defeating Louisville to win the American Athletic, while Notre Dame defeated Duke to win the Atlantic Coast.
Only other time that two undefeated teams entered the tournament undefeated was in 1998 when both Tennessee and Liberty were undefeated entering tournament play. Tennessee went on to win the national championship with a 39-0 record, while Liberty was eliminated in the first round.
Last team to accomplish the feat of going undefeated was Baylor in 2013, when the Lady Bears set a record by becoming the first team to win 40 games in a season (40-0). Connecticut, which is seeking its fifth undefeated season, went 39-0 in 2002, 2009 and 2010 and 35-0 in 1995. It will take six more wins for the Huskies to win the 2014 championship and equal Baylor’s 40-0 mark. Notre Dame is enjoying its first undefeated season, with each subsequent win setting a Fighting Irish team record.
Only other team besides Connecticut, Tennessee and Baylor to go undefeated in NCAA history was Texas, which went 34-0 in 1986.
By comparison, the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship has seen a pair of teams enter the NCAA Tournament with undefeated records three times: In 1968 (Houston and St. Bonaventure), 1971 (Marquette and Penn) and 1976 (Indiana and Rutgers). Of the six teams, only Indiana was able to win the national championship.
Tennessee will be making a record 33rd straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2014. The Lady Vols emerged from the No. 2 seed position in the Southeastern Conference to win the tournament championship with a 71-70 win over Kentucky in the title game. It was a league-leading 17th SEC Tournament title for Tennessee on Sunday.
Penn earns Ivy AQ
Penn earned the Ivy League’s automatic berth the hard way. The Quakers closed the regular season with an 80-64 wire-to-wire win on the road at Princeton on Tuesday. The two teams came into that final game of the regular season tied for the conference lead. Ivy is the only conference without a conference tournament to decide the winner of the automatic berth. It was the third Ivy title for Penn, and its first in 10 years. The Quakers (22-6, 12-2 Ivy) tied a school record for wins in a season and their 12 league wins are second-most in program history. Princeton, which lost at home to an Ivy opponent for just the second time in the last five seasons, fell to 20-8 overall and finished second in the Ancient Eight standings at 11-3.
Of the 16 teams that have earned automatic berths into the NCAA Tournament so far, South Dakota and Winthrop will be making their NCAA Division I Tournament debuts in 2014.
South Dakota (19-13) earned the Summit League's automatic bid when they defeated Denver 82-71 on Tuesday. The Coyotes will be making their first Division I NCAA Tournament appearance in only their second season of eligibility. Last NCAA Tournament appearance for South Dakota came in 2008, when the Coyotes finished 33-2 and reached the championship round of the NCAA Division II Tournament. It will be South Dakota’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance since 1983.
Winthrop (24-8) made the most of its first championship game appearance since 1996, scoring the most points and notching the largest margin of victory in a Big South Championship title contest since 2005, with an 87-74 win over High Point. The Eagles are the first team from a South Carolina institution ever to claim the Big South title.
Latest RPI rankings
The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) comes to the forefront this time of year with Selection Weekend at hand. One of the many tools used by the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee in the selection and seeding process for the championship, the latest RPI shows Notre Dame, Connecticut, Stanford, Duke and Tennessee earning spots 1-5. Combined record for the five teams is 149-14. The RPI ranks teams based upon a team's wins and losses and its strength of schedule. See where your team currently resides in the RPI.
When Central Michigan returns to action in the semifinals of the Mid-American Tournament on Friday, it will be doing so without junior guard Crystal Bradford, who is out for the season after suffering a knee injury during practice on Tuesday afternoon. Bradford was named the MAC Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and first team All-MAC this week. She is third in the MAC in scoring at 20.3 points per game, first in rebounding (13.3), first in steals (2.7), third in assists (5.5) and third in blocks (1.5). Central Michigan went 20-10 overall and 16-2 in MAC play during the regular season, winning the West Division, while Bowling Green claimed the East Division crown.
Around the division
Florida International senior Jerica Coley continues an amazing climb up the all-time NCAA career scoring list. The senior’s latest effort included 42 points as FIU posted an 87-75 win over East Carolina on Wednesday in the second-round of the Conference USA Tournament.
Coley, who hit 12 of her 19 field goal attempts, including 4-of-5 from behind the arch, and connected on 14-of-16 free throws – led three Panthers in double figures with 42 points, which was just one shy of the Conference USA Championship record of 43 (Houston’s Tye Jackson vs. Marshall on March 1, 2007). The added 42 on the day gives her 3,054 for her career. Entering the day ninth on the NCAA career scoring list, Coley moved past the likes of USC’s Cheryl Miller (3,018), Tennessee’s Chamique Holdsclaw (3,025), UConn’s Maya Moore (3,036) and Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne (3,039). She is currently No. 5 on the all-time list and 61 behind Lorri Bauman of Drake’s total of 3,115.
Here’s the current all-time ranking of top scorers:
1. Jackie Stiles, 3,393
2. Brittney Griner, 3,283
3. Patricia Hoskins, 3,122
4. Lorri Bauman, 3,115
5. Jerica Coley, 3,054
With the win, FIU advances to Conference USA Tournament quarterfinals where they will take on No. 4 seed Tulane (20-9, 11-5) on Thursday.
The road to Nashville
The latest 2014 Women’s Final Four event information, including tickets and registration for the various ancillary events around the championship are available here. The national semifinal games will be played April 6, with the national championship decided on April 8, with all games at Bridgestone Arena.