Tuesday, March 14, 2000
by Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com

Women's Hoops; the Second Season Begins

As expected, the Hokie womenís basketball team got an invitation to the womenís NIT on Sunday night when an NCAA invitation that Coach Bonnie Henrickson gave a "slim" chance didnít come through.

Like most people, I wasnít even sure if a womenís NIT existed, but now that I know it does, Iím glad the Hokies got the invitation. Why? Well, the reason is simple: I like watching the Hokies play, and Iím going to get another chance.

But before we get to that, letís first review the basics of the Womenís NIT. Itís a 32-team single-elimination tournament that takes place entirely on the campuses of the participating schools. No neutral site visits are involved.

The instant you hear that, you know itís good news for Tech, because the Hokies are famous for their crowds. Sure, this yearís team didnít produce the huge crowds and sellouts that last yearís Sweet-16 team did, but they still averaged around 3,000 paid fans a game. Thatís a lot more than most schools, and definitely a lot more than most schools that will be participating in the postseason WNIT.

Sure enough, Tech will host a first-round game this Thursday, against Georgia State, and as the tournament goes on, if the Hokies can continue winning, thereís no telling how many games they could wind up hosting Ė and no telling how many games the fans of "Bonnie Ball" will get to witness before bidding goodbye to this yearís edition of the Hokies.

I thought it would be interesting to list all 32 teams in the WNIT and their RPI ratings. Itís a little tedious to compile, yes, but it gives some interesting insight into what teams the Hokies could run into and how the WNIT selects teams. Here we go, in order of RPI rating, from highest to lowest:

Team

Record

RPI

Florida

17-12

22

Arkansas

14-14

49

Alabama

15-13

50

Wisconsin

16-12

51

Chattanooga

24-4

54

Memphis

17-11

55

Hawaii

21-8

56

Cincinnati

17-12

57

Georgia Tech

15-13

58

Colorado State

20-9

59

Villanova

15-14

60

Evansville

23-6

61

Santa Clara

21-8

62

Southern Miss

17-12

63

Virginia Tech

19-10

64

Long Beach State

20-10

65

Pittsburgh

16-12

66

Georgia State

24-6

67

Arkansas State

17-11

69

Michigan State

17-11

77

Georgetown

17-12

78

Fairfield

25-7

79

Wichita State

20-9

81

USC

15-13

88

St. Mary's (CA)

19-9

89

Depaul

17-11

90

Western Michigan

18-11

94

New Mexico

18-10

97

Maryland

14-14

101

Missouri

17-11

104

Dayton

17-11

119

Arizona State

14-14

142

A few things stand out about the WNIT field versus the NCAA field:

Looking strictly at RPI ranking, Florida got shafted by the NCAA tournament. At #22, the Gators are by far the highest-ranked RPI team that did not get a bid to the NCAAís. Next comes Kentucky at #31, and then the next-highest RPI team after that which isnít going to the NCAA tournament is #49 Arkansas.

The reason for the snubs of Florida and Kentucky is the fact that by the time the selection committee got to #22 Florida, six SEC teams had already been selected. From that point on, the committee didnít select any more at-large teams from the SEC, which is why Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Alabama (#50) did not get selected. They are the four highest-RPI teams that did not make the NCAA, and not coincidentally, they are all from the SEC. #51 Wisconsin is the highest-RPI non-SEC team to get left out of the NCAAís.

Out of the top 71 teams in the RPI ratings, all of them except #31 Kentucky are playing in the NCAA or the NIT. Out of those 70 teams, 51 are NCAA participants, and 19 are NIT participants. It appears that the WNIT simply plucked the highest-RPI teams that were left over after the NCAA handed out its bids. And except for Kentucky, the first 20 teams invited to the NIT accepted.

From #72 in the RPI onward, there are a number of teams that arenít in either tournament.

A look at the table of WNIT participants above reveals a broad spectrum of big-name teams and small-name teams, and a wide range of records (although itís interesting to note that 10 of the 32 teams have exactly 17 wins).

Perhaps the most important thing to note about the Hokiesí invitation is that it gives them a chance to play more games together and to develop as a team. Theyíre still very young as a team (there are only two seniors on this yearís squad), and every little bit helps, particularly with regards to the development of point guard Emily Lipton. Lipton was sidelined for a lot of this yearís season with a stress fracture, which limited the freshmanís growth as a player.

Combine the postseason WNIT with the teamís trip overseas next summer, and it gives them a lot of games to play together and make progress before next yearís inaugural season in the tough Big East.

Also worth noting is that Techís Tere Williams will be back in action, and with Tere available for the Hokies, anything can happen.

Further details on the WNIT will be posted in tomorrowís Hokie Hotline notes. The notes can be viewed now on the basketball message board and will be compiled into HC format tomorrow.

          

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