This addition completes our article Bubble Wrap III 2011: Week of March 13, 2011 -- Final Wrap for those readers whose browsers do not support our article body extension. It includes locks and bubble teams for the PAC-10, Southeastern, Sun Belt, West Coast and Western Athletic Conferences.
Sometimes a game lives up to billing and sometimes it doesnt. After Saturday's Big XII Conference Women's Basketball Tournament championship game, Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey addressed the media, telling those present that they had witnessed the best conference championship game in the country this year. Having witnessed it up close, it is hard to argue with that position.
For 40 minutes, neighboring rivals No. 1-seeded Baylor and second-seeded Texas A&M went at it tooth-and-nail before Baylor finally overcame an early 12-point deficit to pull out the 61-58 win behind 31 points from a dominant Brittney Griner. With the win, Baylor consolidated the Big XII's regular-season and tournament titles. The Lady Bears also sealed the Big XII's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament (as if they needed it!) and likely a No. 1 regional seed. The Aggies likely closed the deal on a No. 2 NCAA seed.
Let's take a closer look at a classic game, as well as the All-Tournament Team selections and the postseason prospects of Big XII programs.
After 34 seasons, 736 victories and three trips to the Final Four, Debbie Ryan will be stepping down as head coach of the University of Virginia women's basketball team after this season, Craig Littlepage, the university's director of athletics, announced Saturday.
In making the announcement of her departure, Ryan stated, "I am not retiring per se, but I feel we have not lived up to my own standards and expectations this past year and I want to do what is best for our program and the university."
The timing of this announcement is curious, given that Ryan stated just two days ago that she was not retiring, and Virginia athletic director was quoted as saying, "Debbie's our coach." The timing was also a surprise given that UVA is awaiting its postseason fate as the team returned to practice. Though at 16-15 overall an NCAA Tournament bid is highly unlikely, a trip to the postseason WNIT is within the realm of possibility.
Word is swirling around Charlottesville that this is a "peace with honor" situation, one that allows Ryan to retire with some semblance of dignity, but not entirely of her own accord. Though, despite the team's lack of success this season as compared to the program's hay day, there has been no wide-based fan or media uprising calling for Ryan's removal, though there are certainly other individuals who could have had an influence.
There is no doubt that Ryan is one of the modern architects of women's basketball. After two years as an assistant, she took over as head coach in 1978 at the tender age of 25.
It's that time of year again! With conference tournaments wrapped up, March Madness is right around the corner. Full Court analyst Jim Carson is back once more to help with his annual "Bubble Wrap," a perennial favorite of Full Court subscribers, to help sort out who's likely to join that envied field of 64 come Selection Monday.
Unlike the men's field, 30 of the 64 berths in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament field are reserved for the conference champions (automatic bids). All but one of of those automatic bids was determined in the conference tournaments that transpired across the country over the past two weeks. The last was sewn up last week when Princeton nailed down the Ivy League regular-season championship, moving them off the bubble and into one of the automatic conference bids. (The Ivies do not hold a conference tournament, so their regular-season champ gets the automatic bid.)
That leaves 33 "at-large" berths for the NCAA's Selection Committee to allot to the worthiest teams in the nation. Over the past several weeks, Jim Carson brought you the first two installments in his series of "Bubble Wraps" -- analyses of which teams have likely already wrapped up at large bids through their bodies of work to date, and which teams remain "on the bubble" with a legitimate chance at an at-large bid.
Obviously, until the bracket is formally announced by the committee on March 14 before a national TV audience, anyone's predictions of the field will contain a fair dose of speculation. Still, some outcomes are (far) more probable than others.
Now that we know the conference tournament champions, we've also seen a number of the teams we previously regarded as "locks" -- or even as mere "bubbles" -- secure their invitations to the Big Dance. Of the 31 Division I NCAA Conferences, there are now seven -- the ACC (5), the A-10 (1), the Big East (6), the Big Ten (3), the Big XII (5), the Pac-10 (1) and the SEC (3) -- that we view as having one or more teams whose success at this point in this season has been such that they can safely be considered "locks" for the tournament. In all, Jim identifies 24 teams in those eight conferences who, he believes, have already locked up their tournament berths.
By simple subtraction, that leaves nine at-large berths still up for grabs. Last week, Jim identified 40 teams, in 16 conferences, with teams still considered on the "bubble," down from our first installment of Bubble Wrap, as some locked their places, others have dropped out of contention, and still others have played their way into consideration. This week, we see the number of teams remaining on the bubble is down to 28, spread across 13 conferences -- the ACC (1), A-10 (6), Big East (3), Big Ten (3), Big XII (1), Colonial (1), Conference USA (1), Missouri Valley (2), Mountain West (2), PAC-10 (3), SEC (3), Sun Belt (1) and the WAC (1) -- vying for those nine remaining berths.
Obviously, the outlook for some of those 28 teams appears much better than it does for others; as Jim explains, for some, the prospects are next to nil. But for now, we are still spreading our nets wide, including any team that can make its case for a bid with a straight face.
Last year, for those keeping track, Jim was spot on with his tournament predictions by the "Final Wrap." We'll soon know how he fared this year.
For now, let's take a look at women's college basketball's 31 automatics, the 24 locks, and the 28 remaining bubble teams.