GREEN BAY - You'll understand if the tenth-ranked women's basketball team in the country, and their fans, expect a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament. That explains the puzzled and frustrated reactions when the Green Bay Phoenix were given a 7 seed, coupled with a trip to face 10th seeded Iowa State on the Cyclones' home floor.
Bowling Green State University Athletic Director Greg Christopher serves as the NCAA Division 1 Women's Basketball Committee Chairman, meaning he led the group which decided the seeds and placement of the entire women's field. He says one factor loomed large in the committee's placement of the Phoenix.
"One of the observations when we were talking about Green Bay was strength of schedule compared to other teams in the same bandwidth, those 3 to 8 lines," said Christopher over the phone. "When you're looking at a complete schedule, a complete body of work, 30-35 games, you've got to use those limited slots you've got, non-conference to, frankly, schedule up and find ways to take on top 100 schools."
The Phoenix had a similar strength of schedule last season, when they also lost just one game and ended up with a 5 seed. According to RealTimeRPI.com, Green Bay's RPI was 20 last year, compared to 22 this season.
"You can't compare one year to the next, it's something that, honestly, never comes up in conversation within the committee room," said Christopher.
Green Bay, a one-loss 7 seed, nearly ended up as a two-loss team. They trailed Detroit for a while during the Horizon League Tournament Championship. Christopher says, it's all hypothetical and would depend on the vote of the whole committee, but the Phoenix likely would have still made the tournament had they lost to Detroit a second time.
"There's several schools between where they are and where you get into the other AQ's [automatic qualifiers], some of the 'last four in,'" said Christopher. "You can probably start looking at where the last four in are placed in the bracket, and get a sense there's probably some space that would've protected Green Bay."
The Phoenix are well-past thinking about their seeding, ready to face Iowa State. Still, they wonder what led to their relatively low ranking.
"Everyone sees the polls, but the polls are only one thing they look at," said Green Bay head coach Matt Bollant. "Obviously they don't give a whole lot of credit to the polls, which I'm not sure I agree with. You have 31 head coaches doing it, you have media that follows women's basketball, but apparently that wasn't important to them."
Green Bay faces Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Tip-off is Saturday at 5:30pm.
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