tampabay.com

Out of their league? Not so much

So much of the power in women's college basketball is in the elite conferences: In the past 10 Final Fours, 30 of the 40 teams have come from the SEC 14, ACC (8) and Big East (8).

By GREG AUMAN
Published February 2, 2008


So much of the power in women's college basketball is in the elite conferences: In the past 10 Final Fours, 30 of the 40 teams have come from the SEC 14, ACC (8) and Big East (8). You can add in the Big Ten (5) and Big 12 (3), and there hasn't been a midmajor in the Final Four since Louisiana Tech in 1998 and '99. ¶ The most recent trend is one league sending two teams to the Final Four - it has happened the past four years, with Tennessee and LSU representing the SEC together three times and the ACC putting an unprecedented three teams - Duke, North Carolina and champion Maryland - in the 2006 semifinals.

Could it happen again in Tampa? Absolutely. Connecticut and Rutgers, who meet Tuesday in Piscataway, N.J., could both land No. 1 seeds, though the Scarlet Knights probably need to upset the Huskies to do that. Tennessee and LSU are as talented as last year, and UNC and Maryland likely won't be seeded lower than No. 2, with Duke lurking again as well.

The dark horse for a 1-2 Final Four showing? Baylor is more than qualified to represent the Big 12, and Oklahoma's win against Georgia reminds fans it shouldn't be left out of the conversation.

The Pac-10, however, hasn't had a Final Four team since Stanford in 1997, so it seems a bit much to suggest Cal and Stanford could both make it this season.

At the other end

Worst team in women's college basketball? Only two Division I schools remain winless, with Fordham at 0-21 and Cal State-Northridge 0-17. It's easy to sympathize with both - Fordham, which went 3-25 last season, has lost twice in overtime and lost 61-59 at Massachusetts on Wednesday on a basket with seven seconds left. Northridge went 13-16 last season but lost seven seniors.

Both programs, however, have higher RPIs at CollegeRPI.com than Grambling, which gets the honors as- No. 338. The Tigers are 1-16, but the lone win is against Division II Texas College.

State of the state

The latest projection of the NCAA field at ESPN.com's Bracketology has Florida and Florida State making the cut as No. 10 seeds; Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com still has both teams barely missing the field. Neither has so much as a vote in the national rankings, but could earn points by getting a winning league record in their respected conferences.

The Gators (14-7) lack a statement win, with none against teams with an RPI higher than 49, but they'll have that chance Sunday at home against LSU. FSU, whose best win is against Florida, has its biggest remaining games on the road, playing at North Carolina on Feb. 17 and at Maryland on Feb. 24.

Best thing about the ESPN projected field? It has FSU at Stanford, which could yield a second-round rematch of last season's upset, which sent the Seminoles to the Sweet 16. Florida's draw has it facing a second-round game at Maryland against the Terrapins.

By the numbers

.913 Free-throw percentage of NCAA leader Nikki Flores of Marist.

.903Free-throw percentage of Marist teammate Rachele Fitz, third nationally.

.823 Free-throw percentage of Idaho State, which leads NCAA team rankings.

.734 Free-throw percentage for No. 2 Tennessee, 50th nationally.

.643 Free-throw percentage for No. 1 Connecticut, 257th nationally.

.FAST FACTS

Women's Final Four

When: April 6 and 8

Where: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

Tickets: Sold out

On the Web: For ongoing coverage of women's basketball leading up to the Final Four, go to sports.tampabay.com and click on the link to our special index page.