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PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Gazing into the Crystal Bubble, Part III: The SEC/Big Ten/PAC 10
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Installment 3: Bubble Teams from the SEC, the Big Ten and the Pac10:
Mississippi St The scheduling gods looked kindly on the Lady Bulldogs this year, as they had only single games against SEC rivals LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina. Key to their current, favorable position is a sweep of their home and home series with Vanderbilt. With back to back victories over South Carolina and Mississippi, Miss. St is probably in if they secure one more win, either @Alabama or @LSU.
Mississippi The focus for the Rebels 2009-10 performance falls on their SEC play as their non-conference schedule had only four games against teams in the Top 100 RPI. They lost three, with their only win @ Arkansas Little Rock. Mississippiís first six SEC games tell a far different tale than their last eight. While their triple overtime win against LSU was uplifting, the seven losses hang heavily around their neck. Finishing the regular season out at home vs. Auburn, then @Tennessee, the Rebels will probably have to wait for the SEC Conference Tournament for a change in fortune. By that time, their surprising 5-1 start to SEC conference play may be a distant memory of happier times.
South Carolina The Gamecockís ambitious non-conference schedule, followed by a stacked SEC slate, may have finally gotten the better of this young team. Although their SOS is the 11th best in the country, 13 losses may be unlucky in more ways than one. Their lone non-conference Top 50 RPI win was against NC State. Their 79-71 mid-January victory at home over Kentucky has been somewhat neutralized by the Wildcats 71-50 rout in Lexington. And with the Gamecockís two remaining games at home vs. Georgia and @Vanderbilt, it doesnít get any easier.
Iowa The Hawkeyes were the hottest team in the Big Ten till they travelled to Evanston and collided with Amy Jaeschke and the Northwestern Wildcats, losing 66-72. Still, they are 7-2 in their last nine conference games, Indianaís next, then the Hawkeyes finish in Madison against the Badgers. Two more regular season wins and they would be 17-12 overall, and 10-8 in the Big 10. While they are another team that needs conference tournament help, they should be pleased to be in the conversation at all, after starting the Big Ten 1-6 (see also Texas Tech). Letísl see how far their momentum will carry them.
Penn St Here is another team finishing the season badly, having lost six out of their last seven conference games. Their RPI is in the mid-60ís, as is their SOS, while most of the Bubble teams reviewed above are scattered from the mid 20ís to the mid 50ís. With only two remaining games Ė at home vs. Wisconsin and @ Indiana, they still have a chance, but the Lady Lions will need to supplement their resume with some impressive stuff during the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Purdue With another road loss, this time to Illinois, the Boilers may have seen their NCAA Tournament streak come to an end, unless they can again transform Conseco Fieldhouse into their home court and walk away with the conference tournament trophy, as they did two years ago. One home game remaining against Michigan St, and one more road ordeal, @ Michigan, will conclude the 2009-10 season. It has been a tale of two teams for Purdue, as they were often able to find a way to win at Mackey Arena, but were unable to development the maturity and mental toughness needed to win away from the friendly confines. At this juncture, even an emotional home victory over the Spartans will not change their fate.
Michigan The Wolverines seem to be walking down a road taking them in the opposite direction of the Big Dance. At 14-12 overall, and 6-10 in the Big 10, Michigan has lost 4 out their last 5 conference games. Their last two games find them @Minnesota, then hosting Purdue in their regular season finale. Add Michigan to the schools seeking salvation in their conference tournament.
USC With their 56-51 victory over Washington, USC snapped a five game losing streak that had pulled them back into Bubble Land. The Trojans find themselves with an 8-6 conference record, tied for fourth place with Arizona St. They still have their victories over Texas (Big 12), Mississippi St (SEC) and UCLA (Pac 10), so if they can salvage a split of their four remaining games, the Trojans are probably in. Although, both UC Berkeley and Arizona St have overall and conference records as good as or better than Southern Cal, they are 1-8 and 0-6 respectively against the Top 50 RPI teams that they have played, and both currently have RPIís in the 60ís.
At this point, I would venture a guess and say that DePaul (Big East), NC State (ACC), Mississippi St (SEC), Texas Tech (Big 12) and USC (Pac 10) have the inside track on securing a bid before the conference tournaments begin. As for filling out the final slots, we will just have to be patient and wait for developments in the various conference tournaments to show us the way.