tampabay.com

Double dribble: Women

By GREG AUMAN
Published March 4, 2006


Q&A ON THE TOURNEY FIELD

American University athletic director Joni Comstock is in her fifth year on the NCAA selection committee and will chair this year's 10-member panel, which will sequester itself next weekend in the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis to create the 64-team NCAA Tournament field.

What's the biggest challenge your committee faces in creating a bracket?

It really varies from year to year. There are definitely years where we spend a great length of time deliberating over the last two or three teams to enter the tournament. But last year, we spent at least two hours just establishing the No. 1 seeds.

How do you prepare yourself to be as educated as possible on so many teams?

The average committee member watches about 100 games a year, and we're always getting other people's opinions about women's basketball. We try to review as much material as we can, looking online for stats and facts on all the teams.

Does it make it harder when teams open the tournament so close to home?

This will be the last year that that is the case. We'll have neutral sites, but we still have the provision of trying to keep teams in their natural regions.

There are some impressively deep conferences this year, such as the Big East and ACC, that could establish new marks for how many teams can make the NCAA cut.

The last couple of weeks have been amazing, and I think there's a growing depth and parity all over college basketball.

Is the ACC strong enough to have three No. 1 seeds in Duke, North Carolina and Maryland?

There's nothing in our procedures that would preclude such a thing, and all three have been very impressive, outstanding teams. It's just a matter of their performance in the (conference) tournament and how the other teams finish as well. WHAT BUBBLE?

Four weeks ago, we talked about how four state teams - Florida, Florida State, USF and Miami - were all sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble. February took care of that, with a strong month for three teams and a bad stretch that has Miami on the outside of any reasonable contention.

The Hurricanes have dropped five of six to fall to 16-12, including a loss to 11th-seeded Georgia Tech in the conference tournament. The other three schools, however, were a combined 15-6 entering their league tournaments, with Florida getting overtime upsets against LSU and Tennessee and FSU winning six of its last seven. USF, which won eight of its last 12, can basically lock up its first-ever NCAA trip with a win against Notre Dame tonight.

LOCALS ONLY

Want a former Tampa Bay prep standout to cheer for during championship week? Look no further. We'll wait to plug Tennessee's Dominique Redding (Clearwater) for a few more weeks.

We'll start with another former Clearwater star, Rachel Hammond, now a 5-foot-9 freshman guard at Liberty, which is the team to beat in the Big South, winning 10 in a row and 16 of 17. Hammond is scoring 3.8 points while averaging 10.6 minutes off the bench.

Want a real Cinderella? Former Boca Ciega star Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen, now a junior guard at Georgia State, leads her team in points (14.2) and assists (4.7). But Georgia State has lost six of seven to fall to 3-14 in conference play, last in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Seminole's Jen Hansen is a junior guard for Army, which has the top seed in the Patriot League tournament. Hansen, averaging 5.0 points a game, started and scored 10 in Army's opening-round win Thursday against Lafayette. The Black Knights face fifth-seeded Colgate in a semifinal today.

Along with Redding, another local who will make the NCAA field is Candace Dupree of Wharton who earned repeat honors as Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and the league's Defensive Player of the Year after leading Temple with 17.0 points and 8.7 rebounds. The third-seeded Owls open play in the A-10 tournament tonight, hoping to get past regular-season co-champs George Washington and Charlotte.