'Dores omission causes much debate

Editor's note: Charlie Creme will project the 2005 NCAA Tournament bracket each month throughout the season. Click here for a glance at this month's field of 64.

Why no Vanderbilt? Is Connecticut too low? Is Tennessee too high? Has Creme just plain lost his mind?

These are just some of the questions that caught our attention and landed in this month's mailbag:

I don't understand why Vanderbilt, ranked No. 17 in nation and nose-to-nose with Tennessee for 34 of 40 minutes Sunday, is not included in your NCAA field. The Commodores lost only two players, one who played hurt all season, from a Sweet 16 team. The nonconference schedule has been weak, but an SEC season will take care of that.

Jim Davy

No question was asked more. As I addressed in my column, Vanderbilt's nonconference schedule was ridiculously bad: No. 248 at the time of the projections with six opponents below 200 in the RPI. But we need to address a few other issues, too.

Vanderbilt's poll ranking and where it finished last season have no bearing here. Neither is among the criteria used by the committee in selecting at-large teams. The misconception about poll rankings comes up every season, so it's best to address that in the first e-mail response.

Vandy's omission here is by no means a prediction that the Commodores won't, ultimately, be in the tournament. These projections are done on what has happened thus far, not what probably will happen in the coming two months. Honestly, I, too, believe Vanderbilt will be a tournament team, but only because it will win games to earn a berth. Until the Commodores start playing (and winning) those kinds of big games, Vanderbilt hasn't proven to actually be that kind of club.

How can you put Penn State as a No. 10? You say Ohio State is the best in the Big Ten, yet Penn State beat the Buckeyes. You have Iowa as the No. 4 in the same region, yet Penn State beat the Hawkeyes on the road when Iowa was the last of the unbeatens! Penn State might not be a top-4 seed right now, but a No.10 seed it is not! Every team the Lady Lions have lost to is at least receiving votes, they played the No. 2 schedule in the nation, and they have knocked off UNC, Ohio State, Iowa, and barely lost to Duke on the road! Why aren't they at least a No. 5 or No. 6 the way they're playing now?

Zach Mainfold
Red Lion, Pa.

Penn State might end up much higher, but the bottom line with the Lady Lions is they are just 12-6. Schedule strength is a big factor and perhaps played an even bigger roll in these projections because so many other criteria were undistinguishable among schools. However, six losses are six losses. Very few teams under consideration even approached that number. As records around the nation spread out, those six losses won't be as glaring.

NC State didn't make your line-up? Gee, all the Wolfpack have done is beat two top-25 teams ON THE ROAD (Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech) and are now 15-4 on the year. No stars, just good, solid team play. I suggest you
take another look at the Wolfpack Women when you release your February bracket.

Steve Burrus
Simpsonville, S.C.

Steve, I'm sure I will, and the Wolfpack were under serious consideration this go round. However, with the Virginia Tech win coming after the bell (this projection was done based on games through Sunday, Jan. 16) and the victory over Vanderbilt not being as significant as it might appear (see above), NC State needs a little more. Wins over Nebraska and Louisville in November in Hawaii just aren't enough, especially with that recent loss to a sub-100 Clemson.

What about Kentucky? The Wildcats blew out Georgia in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score (71-63), and their young players are starting to come together. How many games do they have to win in the SEC to get attention as a program on the rise?

Lexington, Ky.

Honestly, Aaron, Kentucky was not really under serious consideration for this projection. The young Wildcats might be coming together, but that win over Georgia is their only one that's even remotely significant. The RPI and SOS, plus five losses, just don't measure up.

I like your stretch of Tennessee as a No. 2 seed. Seems you want to make sure Tennessee gets home court rather than the rating it should have. Playing teams and losing should count for something.

Until the women decide not to give Tennessee and Duke home court throughout, the women's NCAA Tournament is a joke and will remain a joke until home court is taken away. If Tennessee and Duke have such great fans, then they should support the regional that is being held on their home court, regardless of who's playing. Are the women that desperate for an audience that they value Tennessee and Duke as home court teams, even when more deserving teams are forced on the road (ie. LSU, Rutgers)?

It seems a team with a name and a winning record is far superior to a team with a great winning record and no name. The women demanded 64 teams to be the same as the men; now they need to take away the home court from these schools and make it a fair competition. Otherwise, why not just invite UConn, Tennessee, Duke and Stanford to their own tournament.

By the way, the Big East is a better conference and should rate more than just four teams. And Tennessee is a No. 5 seed at best.

Larry Scantland
Denver, Colo.

The home court issue is still a sticking point with many who follow the women's game. But, the committee has made changes to reduce that problem and get more games on neutral courts, so to call the current format a joke is going a bit too far. Most of the homecourt advantage or disadvantage comes in the first two rounds, but Larry seems to be making more direct references to the regionals.

In that case, UConn has no such home court; Philadelphia is the closest site. Last year, Stanford played in Tempe, Ariz., then Norman, Okla. No homecourt advantage there.

This season, Duke has no homecourt at all. Sure, the Blue Devils could play opening-round games just down the road in Chapel Hill, N.C., but how is that any different than the possibility of the Illinois men playing in a Indianapolis sub-regional and then in the Chicago regional? In fact, while the men's tournament that Larry references bans teams from playing on their actual home court, it gives distinct geographical advantages to top seeds.

Tennessee's seed has nothing to do with Chattanooga being a regional site. The Lady Vols have absolutely earned a No. 2 seed. No way does the top team in the RPI that also plays the strongest schedule and has eight top-50 wins merely land a 5 seed.

While I do agree the Big East is a good conference, at-large bids are not measured like that. Teams are teams as far as the committee is considered. League affiliation doesn't matter and there is no quota for a particular league.

How could Notre Dame be ahead of UConn? UConn destroyed Notre Dame, then beat Texas. So how could UConn not be a 3 or 4 seed?

Jonathan Grande
Branford, Conn.

First, the Huskies' Martin Luther King Jr. Day win over Texas came a day late to be considered for this projection. Also, Jonathan, while head-to-head is part of the equation, it's not everything. The Irish have played the nation's fifth-toughest schedule, with big wins along the way. Duke, Ohio State and USC all register as wins against the RPI top-25. Outside of beating Notre Dame, UConn has no such victories.

Why has Southwest Missouri State been left out of the projected field of 64? The Lady Bears were ahead of then-No. 1 LSU with six minutes left in the Triple Crown Classic, and lost to Oklahoma in Norman by just three. The only substantial losses they've had this year came when Kari Koch, the 2004 MVC player of the year, was out with injury. Perhaps your prediction will change after Saturday's 66-51 win over Creighton.


SMS was under strong consideration, and if the Lady Bears have their usual success in the MVC, they will remain so. However, with five losses, an RPI in the 60s, and, most significantly, not a single win against the RPI top-100, there is just no way SMS deserves an at-large bid at this point.

I cannot believe your predictions. How do you have Virginia Tech as a No. 4 seed ahead of UConn? Louisiana Tech as a five seed? I have been a Tech fan for years, but the Lady Techsters play in a weak conference and haven't beaten anyone of note. I saw them play against Oklahoma and they looked terrible. How do you leave Vandy out? They are a quality team and you know that, everyone knows that. All I have to say is that I am glad that you don't make up the seedings for the tournament. You obviously do not know what you are talking about.

Justin A. Frisque
Green Bay, Wis.

Clearly, Justin is still smarting from the Packers early playoff exit. I just hope Brett Favre doesn't retire. That could really set him off.

Let's take his points one at a time. Keeping in mind UConn's win over Texas and Virginia Tech's overtime loss to NC State, the Hokies had a slightly better profile -- a better record, more wins vs. the top-25 in the RPI, same record against the top-100, higher SOS, higher RPI -- than the Huskies.

I might have over-seeded Louisiana Tech a little. The Lady Techsters do have just one top-50 win, but at the time of the bracket projection that was the same as UConn. Although, I will grant the fact that beating Notre Dame is more impressive than a win over Tulsa.

And rest assured -- Justin isn't the first person, beginning, but certainly not ending with this batch of e-mails, to question what goes on above my shoulders.

While reading your article, I noticed the reference to "the blinding light of Diana Taurasi's star." Granted, she is one of the best players to play the women's game, but is she really that good? Players before her have done a lot more, and they seem like they get left in the wake. I am talking about such players as Holdsclaw, Catchings, McCray, Leslie, Lobo. Even old school players like Ann Myers, Nancy Lieberman and Denise Curry aren't even given a thought. Maybe it's just me, but I think the love affair with Taurasi is a little overstated.

Sacramento, Calif.

First, Brandon I think you are taking my line a little too seriously. It was merely to illustrate how the dominance of the
Taurasi-led Huskies prevented many from seeing how the rest of the women's game was progressing. While UConn amassed three straight titles, many other programs were also making giant strides. It was just hard to see with those UConn clubs doing their thing.

I would, however, question that those players have done more than Taurasi. Those you mentioned were giants in the game, legendary in some cases, but none of them exceeded three NCAA titles, and only Holdsclaw matched them. I'm not sure that kind of winning can be overstated.

Charlie Creme can be reached at cwcreme@hotmail.com.