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Friday, July 19, 2019

Not Much Controvery in This Year’s NCAA Women’s Bracket

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By Clay Kallam

It’s hard to stir up much controversy when there’s only one question – and we already know the answer.

But after digging into the women’s bracket, I did manage to find one moderately interesting topic to discuss: Why did Nebraska get seeded ahead of Tennessee?

Before we get into the gory details, a better question would be: Why does it matter?

Volunteer fans will immediately chorus that Tennessee has to play UConn in the semis (assuming form holds) rather than in the finals, and that just isn’t right. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the path to the NCAA title lead through UConn? Isn’t it almost overwhelmingly likely that to cut down the nets you have to beat the Huskies? So why does it matter if you play them in the semis or finals? You still have to beat them, right?

And if someone else manages to beat them for you, then that someone is probably pretty damn good too, so no matter how you slice it, it’s a long, tough slog to claim a ring, and you have to beat a lot of good teams to get there. So what difference does it make when a team like Tennessee plays a team like Connecticut?

Of course, UConn supporters may have wanted to see Nebraska in the semis, but who can resist the drama of seeing Pat and Geno go head-to-head in the Final Four? What could be more delicious fun? And again, if the Huskies can’t beat Tennessee, they really don’t deserve to be national champs.

OK, moving on to what the committee was thinking …

Tennessee lost at Stanford by 15 and at Georgia by three. Nebraska lost to Texas A&M on a neutral site by 10, and beat the Aggies in College Station by 11.

But Tennessee won its league and its tournament, and Nebraska won the league but not the tournament.

Jane Meyer, the Selection Committee chair, discussed this decision after the bracketing was announced and offered the following explanation: “Stanford won its conference regular season and tournament and thus deserved the two seed.”

She then went on to say exactly the opposite—i.e., that Tennessee won its league and tournament, but Nebraska, which didn’t, earned the higher seed.

Gee, thanks for clearing that up, Jane.

There was the usual moaning about who got in and who didn’t, and Meyer pointed out several times that the committee focuses on teams, not conferences, so that the surprisingly large number of mid-majors was basically unnoticed by the members. Whether or not they were conscious of it, it just seems that the committee’s selections reflected the reality that several BCS conferences were down this year. (The Pac-10 is the most obvious example, but the SEC needs to take a look in the mirror as well.)

Of equal import is that seven of the 16 sites will be hosted by teams who didn’t get into the tournament, and though Meyer was predictably optimistic, that may be good news for advocates of neutral siting, but it is not good news at all in terms of attendance. We can look forward to cameras scanning acres of empty seats in such places as Tempe, Arizona (how many Sun Devils fans are going to come out to watch Andrea Riley miss the first game?), Pittsburgh (those St. Francis fans better save the day) and Berkeley (especially with four other games across the Bay at Stanford on the very same days).

The regionals, of course, will be sparsely attended, as they always are. Supporters always brag that the Final Four sells out a year in advance, but that’s because it’s half party and half convention – but the regionals have to sell women’s basketball, and in general, the audience isn’t buying. Tennessee should save Memphis, and maybe Nebraska can fill some seats in Kansas City (but I have a feeling the Huskers are vulnerable to an upset). But Sacramento is a long way from Palo Alto, and if more than 5,000 Stanford fans make the trek, I’ll be stunned – and UConn’s coronation in Dayton may be witnessed by just a hardy few if, as almost always happens, Ohio State finds a way to lose in the second round.

But then again, there is good news:

  • 92% of the teams in the women’s tournament had a 60% graduation rate; just 58% of the men’s teams did;

  • 82% of the women’s teams graduated 70% compared to 45% of the men’s team; and

  • Only 5% of the women’s teams graduated fewer than 40% of their players, while 19% of the men’s teams fell below that minimal standard.

The data came from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, under the direction of Richard Lapchick.

“There is so much good news for the women’s tournament teams when we examine the Graduation Success Rates and the Academic Progress Rates in particular,” said Lapchick. “Nineteen women’s tournament teams had a 100 percent graduation rate for their teams. Women do much better academically than men. Furthermore, the academic success gap between African-American and white women’s basketball student-athletes is smaller, although still significant, than between African-American and white men’s basketball student-athletes.

“The women in the tournament are the epitome of what it means to be a student-athlete,” added Lapchick. “Their academic success is a great story.”

Now if only fans would pay to see them take tests and write papers …

Originally published Thu, March 18, 2010

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.