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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Quinnipiac goes after NCAA bid tomorrow

These are anxious yet exciting times for teams across the country this weekend.

Unlike teams like UConn which know they are NCAA tournament bound before playing its first game of the season, squads from mid-major, one-bid conferences the stakes are significantly higher.

Such is the case tomorrow when Quinnipiac hosts St. Francis (Pa.) in the Northeast Conference final.

The Bobcats have been knocking on the door of an NCAA tournament bid in recent years but this could be the best team veteran Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri has had. The Bobcats had a perfect run through the NEC and with a win tomorrow, they are NCAA tournament bound.

Last week I asked UConn coach Geno Auriemma for his reaction on the season Quinnipiac is enjoying.

"I've known Trish since she was in high school and I remember when she was a player at Fairfield and she she worked my camp, when I used to have a camp," Auriemma said, "I am really thrilled for them  because I know how hard Trish works and I know how hard it is in Connecticut to get any kind of recognition for doing a great job. Sometimes we get way more attention than we deserve so I am glad they are getting their just rewards, wherever they go ... The crazy thing is that in that league they have to win the tournament. So you have a team that is undefeated like that and it is going to come down to a couple of days. I feel for those teams in those leagues that are one-bid leagues, I almost think they shouldn't have a tournament, if you go undefeated or you just proved over five months that you are the best team in the league why now put yourself in a position where you might not be sending your best team to the NCAA tournament."

The interesting thing is that when Toledo lost in the Mid-American Conference, there were no lack of tweets suggesting that the Rockets had done enough to earn an at-large bid. If that is the case, perhaps the same argument could be made for Quinnipiac.

In the latest database on the www.realtimerpi.com site, Quinnipiac's RPI is 43rd followed by Toledo at No. 44. Toledo has the slight edge in games against teams in the top 100 in RPI (6 to 4) and wins against top 100 RPI squads (3 to 2) as well as strength of schedule (222 to 236). Neither team has a loss to a team outside the top 100. Toledo lost just once in conference play during the regular season while Quinnipiac did not drop a game. Of course Quinnipiac can take care of the drama with a win tomorrow at 5 p.m.

I know from past history that RPI ratings often have very little to do with the final seeded but you would have  to think that if Quinnipiac wins, the Bobcats have a strong enough resume to avoid being sent to Gampel Pavilion to draw UConn in the first round. Although it hasn't been updated since Mar.11, ESPN's Charlie Creme's bracketology has Quinnipiac headed to the University of Delaware subregional at the No. 13 seed.

Today there are 11 conference championship games (including former UConn star Jen Rizzotti's Hartford squad meeting Albany in the America East title game). The majority of them are one-bid leagues and it seems highly probable that UConn's first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament is playing for a spot in the tournament today.

Here are the top candidates with RPIs in parethesis.
Hofstra (160): Would need to beat Delaware in today's Colonial semifinals and win tomorrow's final. Former Hillhouse star Andreana Thomas is Hofstra's starting point guard.
Central Florida (119): Plays Tulsa in Conference USA final. Would be interesting story line with Central Florida joining UConn's conference next season
Holy Cross (144): Plays Navy in Patriot League final and until recently, the Crusaders had the longest running continuous non-conference series with UConn
Howard (128): Plays Hampton in MEAC fial. Howard played UConn in 1996 tournament opener.
St. Francis Pa. (111): Faces Quinnipiac in tomorrow's NEC final and it would meet UConn in the first round for the third time.

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