Today we find out whether Kent State’s women’s basketball season gets to continue its season.
NCAA tournament seedings are announced at about 8 p.m. The Flashes have no chance of making it there this season. The MAC hasn’t had two teams since 1996. Toledo has the automatic bid from winning the conference tournament.
If any other team gets in, it would be regular-season Central Michigan. That’s so unlikely that the WNIT is already listing the Chippewas as an automatic qualifier.
The WNIT is the tournament Kent State has a good shot at. Its field will be announced about 9 p.m. Opponents, times and places are announced later Monday and Tuesday.
The WNIT is a 64-team tournament on top of the 64-team NCAA.
All Kent State has to be is in the top 120 or so teams in the country to make it. (I say 120 because a few lower-ranked teams will get into one of the two tournaments because they won their leagues’ regular-season or tournament championship.)
Here’s how the WNIT website says teams are chosen:
- The top-ranking team in each of the nation’s Division I conferences that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament gets a bid. That most often is a mid-major regular-season champion that was upset in the league tournament. But it also could be the sixth place team in the Big Ten or the third-place team in Conference USA.
- Then the selection committee looks at least six different ranking systems — the various RPI sites, Sagarin, Massey, Moore (the last are two sites I had never heard of). It throws out the high and low rankings.
- That’s basically the deciding factor. The WNIT site says that if it’s close, selectors can consider things like recent record, common opponents, and late-seasons injuries.
I looked at six different rating systems. Kent State ranked from 96th (in the tournament for sure) to 128 (unlikely).
The Flashes did best (almost identically) on RPI sites, where they were 96, 96 and 97. They were 107 on Massey, 122 on Sagarin and 128 on Moore. I didn’t try to figure out why the sites had different results. RPI emphasizes strength of schedule more than the rest. Other sites look at margin of victory, wins over “quality’ opponents, etc.
Following the WNIT’s instructions of throwing out the high and low, I get an average of 106.
That should get the Flashes in.
I spent much too long looking at possible WNIT teams yesterday and figured teams ranked 120 or better were in. (I was using RPI.)
So if the Flashes are in, who, where and when do they play?
When is easy. First round games are March 15-17 — this Wednesday through Friday. (Wouldn’t it be strange and unfair if Kent State’s men and women both played Friday? That’s when the men play in Sacramento in the NCAA tournament.)
Who? The WNIT doesn’t exactly seed. The organization divides teams into a top, middle and bottom tiers. Top-tier teams play bottom-tier; middle-tier play each other.
As I figured it, 105 would put Kent State toward the bottom end of the middle tier. That is the most inexact of all the calculations I made.
The WNIT won’t pair teams from the same conference in the first round and tries to avoid it in the second round.
It also tries to avoid rematches of regular-season games in the first round.
It tries for the first few rounds to group teams geographically to keep down travel costs and keep students in classes.
From all that, my best guess on KSU opponents would be (by distance among middle-tier schools) Penn State in State College, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Drexel in Philadelphia, Rider University in New Jersey, and Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro.
Other possibilities that’s I’d consider in the top tier might be Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis, Villanova in Philadelphia, Northwestern just outside Chicago and Georgetown in Washington.
Lower ranked teams might be Morehead State in Kentucky, Navy in Annapolis, Maryland, and St. Joseph’s University outside Philadelphia.
Where would the game be? All WNIT games through the finals are on campus sites. Which campuses? It depends on a number of factors, starting with whether a team is willing to host a game.
Why not? It costs money. When Toledo hosted a number of WNIT games in 2011, the Toledo Blade did a public records requests on costs. It concluded that expenses for a first-round game was about $11,o00 and that Toledo lost about $2,000 on the game. There were about 1,300 fans at the game — small for Toledo, which usually draws more than 3,000.
(Based on inflation, I’d figure today’s costs about 10 or 15 percent higher.)
Highest attendance at any Kent State game this season was about 1,000. Average was about 550.
After it gets bids, the WNIT decides home sites based on fan base, location, and competitive bids from other schools in the tournament in the geographic area.
Kent State has never hosted a WNIT game. The Flashes turned down a bid one year when Bob Lindsay was miffed his team didn’t make the NCAA tournament. They likely could have had a home game that season. (Lindsay had a right to be unhappy; KSU had an RPI in the 30s, the best of any team that didn’t make the NCAA. But I know the players wanted to keep playing.) The Kent State men hosted a game four or five years ago.
We’ll start to learn it all this year’s tournament about 10 p.m. tonight.