It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a buzzer-beater for if the Nebraska women’s basketball team is going be in the NCAA Tournament.
They’re either safely in, or weren’t in serious contention.
That became apparent on Sunday afternoon. For the first time the NCAA selection committee shared the tournament bubble with the public one day prior to the official announcement. The committee revealed eight teams that were in the discussion for the last four teams in the tournament. Nebraska was not one of those eight teams. So that should mean the Huskers are safely in the tournament, or weren’t in serious contention when the final teams were chosen.
We’ll know the answer to that question when the bracket is announced during the selection show at 6 p.m. on Monday on ESPN. The Nebraska players are going to have a private watch party for the bracket reveal.
The eight teams that committee chair Rhonda Bennett said during an interview on ESPN were under consideration for the final spots were Buffalo, Creighton, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Purdue, Rutgers, USC and West Virginia. Bennett said the decision on the teams picked has already been made, but won’t be revealed until Monday evening.
Nebraska has a 21-10 record and is ranked No. 60 in the RPI. Nebraska has had an impressive second-half of the season, and has been considered a team on the bubble for about the last month of the season.
After the insight gathered from the committee reveal, ESPN bracketologist Charlie Crème not only appears confident that the Huskers are in, but he moved Nebraska from the last team in the tournament all the way up to a No. 9 seed in his final projections. The previous ESPN projections had most of the same teams on the bubble as the committee did.
What’s interesting -- but likely only one very small factor over a 30-game season -- is that Nebraska has played several of the teams on the bubble. The Huskers lost to Buffalo and Creighton early in the season. But then Nebraska beat Minnesota, Purdue and Rutgers during Big Ten play.
Rutgers is an interesting case because it has an RPI of 40 and a 20-12 record, but went just 3-9 in its last 12 games, including a couple of games it probably should have won.
Nebraska had a stronger finish with an 8-4 record in its last 12 games, and was 9-2 in road games. Nebraska coach Amy Williams, of course, feels like the Huskers deserve to be chosen.
“I think our biggest case is we just feel like early in the season we had some disappointing losses that we feel like are probably dropping our RPI,” Williams said. “But we feel like that we were not really healthy until conference play hit, and once we started to really put things together then we’ve had some really key wins.”
In an interview prior to the selection committee revealing the eight teams on the bubble, Crème said he had gone back-and-forth on if he thinks Nebraska would get in. He said he can understand the case for why the Huskers will get in, but also why they won’t.
“Their RPI is sort or borderline. Teams have gotten in with those RPIs before so it wouldn’t be unprecedented, but it’s borderline,” Crème said. “The (five) top 50 wins is nice, but to a lot of the Big Ten teams there is an asterisk because they’re all against each other. Nebraska didn’t do anything in the nonconference to indicate to me that what they did in the conference was truly substantial. And I say that because the same thing happened with Minnesota, the same thing happened with Purdue. All of their good wins are against each other.”
And while head-to-head is just one of the 16 criteria the committee uses in the selection and seeding process, Crème said you may have to at least consider the Huskers’ losses against Buffalo and Creighton.
But in Crème’s educated and experienced opinion on the selection process, the Huskers will be chosen.
“I’ve seen a team that has improved considerably, I’ve seen a team that I think, based on years of basketball, that could compete in a tournament-level game with tournament-level teams,” Crème said.
On Monday evening we’ll know for sure how the selection committee felt about Nebraska.