Monday, March 17, 2014

NCAA, WNIT and WBI projections

The NCAA tournament field will be announced Monday night, with the WNIT and WBI (Women's Basketball Invitational) brackets to follow later that evening. So which of the teams in Virginia will get to keep playing?


- Hampton, which won its fifth straight MEAC title Saturday, and JMU, which captured the CAA crown for the third time in five years, both earned automatic bids. No other team in Virginia has a realistic shot at an at-large bid.

- When pressed for his opinion on seeding, Hampton coach David Six said he believed a No. 12 was fair. On Sunday, ESPN's final projection also had the Lady Pirates at 12. If the selection committee agrees, Hampton would become the highest-seeded MEAC team since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1994. The previous high was No. 13 by Hampton in 2011.

- Given the curious nature of seeding in previous years - and the fact that the committee can move a team up or down a seed line to maintain various bracket principles - we're prepared to see Hampton seeded anywhere from 12th to 15th.

- For these same reasons, we're expecting JMU to be slotted anywhere from a No. 7 to No. 11.

- That said, we believe seeding is somewhat overrated, and that the most important factors are the matchup with a given opponent and where the game is played. If Hampton and JMU can get neutral-court games versus teams they match up well with, their fans should be doing cartwheels no matter what number is next to the teams' names on the bracket.


- There have been exceptions, but generally speaking, if a team doesn't make the NCAA field but has an RPI of 135 or lower and at least a .500 record, that team is extremely likely to get invited to this tournament.

- VCU has a 22-9 record and an RPI of 100 according to Collegiate Basketball News and 97 as calculated by (the NCAA's latest RPI figures have yet to be released). VCU looks like a shoe-in for the WNIT.

- Old Dominion (17-15, RPI 127 CBN, RPI 130 realtime) also seems likely to get a bid, although we'll hedge just a bit until we see the official NCAA numbers. About a month ago, ODU was a longshot for this tournament. But in winnng six of their last seven games, the Lady Monarchs appear to have played their way in.

- Until we see the NCAA RPI, we're putting Liberty (20-11, RPI 137 CBN, RPI 131 realtime) on the WNIT bubble.

- The WNIT requires at least a .500 overall record before handing out an at-large bid, so Virginia (14-17), Virginia Tech (14-16), Richmond (14-16), Norfolk State (12-16), George Mason (8-23), Radford (7-23), Longwood (8-22) and William and Mary (8-21) are all ineligible for consideration.

- There's a lot of rebuilding going on in this here Commonwealth.

- An automatic WNIT bid goes to the highest finisher in each conference that doesn't make the NCAAs regardless of record, but none of the above teams are positioned to get in this way, either. Only Virginia has even a remote chance, and the Cavaliers would need nine ACC teams, including 16-14 Miami, to be invited to the NCAAs. Can't see that happening.


- This tournament, now in its fifth year, has no overall record requirement. But of the 64 teams that have played in the previous four WBIs, all but three have had .500 or better records.

- Based on the previous four seasons, the typical WBI team has 16-20 wins, double-digit losses, and RPI of 140 or higher and plays in one of the so-called mid-major conferences. None of the teams in Virginia that are unlikely to receive NCAA or WNIT bids fits this profile.

- But if Liberty gets snubbed by the WNIT and still wants to play more basketball, the Lady Flames would very well wind up being the strongest team in this field. And the team with the best pre-tournament RPI has won three of the four WBI titles.

- Of course, we hope it doesn't come to that.

- Only three teams from the so-called major conferences have ever played in this tournament. Not surprisingly, they were also the only three teams to get in with losing records - Louisville (Big East) and Washington (Pac-12) in 2010 and Minnesota (Big Ten) in 2012. So we have to acknowledge the possibility - however remote - that Virginia and/or Virginia Tech could wind up in this field. We'd be stunned if the Cavaliers or Hokies got involved in the WBI, but we did want to point out that if either of these teams were desperate to keep playing, there is one tournament that would probably have them.

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