February 6, 2008 in Sports

Bracket racket abounds

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane bound?

North Carolina

Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell, in her 32nd year in Chapel Hill and closing in on 800 wins, is the only coach with national titles at the AIAW, NAIA and NCAA level.

NC has been in 19 NCAA tournaments, winning in 1994 with disgraced sprint star Marion Jones as point guard.

Last year the Tar Heels went 34-4, finished second in the league, won the ACC tournament and lost to Tennessee in the NCAA semifinals.

Ten letterwinners return, including starters Erlana Larkin, Rashanda McCants and LaToya Pringle, but cat-quick freshman guard Cetera DeGraffenreid has solidified the team, stepping in for graduated superstar Ivory Latta.

No. 1 seeds: Tennessee, UConn, North Carolina, Rutgers

Three questions arise as projections start coming out for the women’s NCAA tournament:

•Which teams are likely to end up in Spokane for the four-team regional the second week of the tournament?

•Where would Gonzaga go if the Bulldogs defend their West Coast Conference tournament title?

•Would the Zags get in if they don’t win the WCC tournament?

It’s easiest to answer from the bottom up.

The WCC is projected as a one-berth conference. GU might get in, but pessimists remember the 2004-05 season. The Bulldogs lost the WCC title game, which ended a 23-game winning streak, dropped their record to 27-3 and left them on the outside looking in on Selection Monday.

Gonzaga, because of its record, was ranked 48th by College RPI, but the strength of schedule was 211 and the WCC No. 22 in the conference RPI. Despite a 16-6 record, the Zags are 44th, according to College RPI, with a strength of schedule at 68 and the WCC is 10th.

The Bulldogs are 0-3 against Top 50 teams but 3-0 against teams from 51-100. Some consideration would go into the 2-3 record while Heather Bowman was injured. But borderline would describe the Bulldogs’ chances if they don’t win on March 9 in San Diego.

Projected as WCC champion, Gonzaga may go to Stanford. Palo Alto, where the Zags went last year when they made it to the Big Dance for the first time, and Albuquerque, N.M., are the two first-round sites in the West. The general rule of thumb is the Selection Committee tries to keep teams as close to home as possible.

The first ESPN.com projection that included Gonzaga, however, had the Bulldogs headed to West Lafayette, Ind., (Purdue) as a 13 seed, facing Big Ten power Ohio State, a fourth seed. The latest two kept them as a 13, going to New Mexico to play Wyoming (which has since lost twice), and now Oklahoma State. What made West Lafayette enticing was the projection put Tennessee there as well, although in a different regional pod.

College RPI puts Gonzaga in New Mexico as a 13 seed, but the opponent was first Oklahoma, then Notre Dame.

The initial question is much more difficult. Regionals, if brackets go to form, would feature top-four seeds, which means good teams would be headed this way.

One thing to note is the four regions are also seeded and in all likelihood Spokane would be the No. 4 regional, meaning the fourth No. 1 seed could come this way, but also the likely first – or fifth overall – No. 2 seed.

Although it would never be said, the general consensus is that a perfect championship game would be Connecticut-Tennessee. That’s the most high-profile rivalry in the game and since those two ended their regular-season showdowns, a grand finale of that caliber would greatly enhance interest.

Greensboro, N.C., is where UConn is slotted and that regional is on the same side as the Spokane regional, which means no Tennessee (until next season when the Vols visit Gonzaga).

College RPI and ESPN.com update brackets weekly. As of today, the RPI top four seeds hoping to visit the Lilac City would be Baylor, Stanford, Duke and West Virginia, a week after it was Maryland, Baylor, Notre Dame and LSU. At ESPN.com it went from North Carolina, Stanford, Pittsburgh and Old Dominion to Maryland, Stanford, WV and Pitt.

Tip-ins

WCC officials are going to use pink whistles during the breast cancer awareness Think Pink program from Friday through Feb. 17. … GU freshman Courtney Vandersloot has 123 assists, 10th on the Zags’ single-season list. … EWU’s Tatjana Sparavalo is the leading freshman scorer in Big Sky games at 12.6 and Julie Piper is the top freshman rebounder at 5.9. … Freshman Jenna Galloway (Ferris) has a homecoming Saturday when Northern Arizona plays at Eastern Washington. Galloway, who missed six games with a stress fracture, is in the starting lineup, averaging 26 minutes, 7.7 points and 3.4 rebounds.


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