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ND Women’s Basketball – Analysis: NCAA spot not a lock after slide

Bill Brink | Tuesday, March 6, 2007

It will be tough for Notre Dame to rebound from its three-game losing streak. The consecutive losses to Rutgers and DePaul at end the season and another loss to the Blue Demons in the first round of the Big East tournament dropped the Irish from their once favorable position of entering the NCAA Tournament with momentum to one of recovery and rebuilding.

The Irish (19-11, 10-6 Big East) would have almost been guaranteed a spot in the tournament had they won 20 games. Although currently projected to enter the tournament as a No. 8 seed by ESPN.com analyst Charlie Creme, the importance of the end of the season in tournament selection may drop Notre Dame’s seed even further or eliminate them from the tournament altogether.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw has confidence the team is ready for the tournament and will have a chance to play.

“I think we’re in much better shape than we were in last year,” McGraw said. “At this time I think we [had] 18 wins. I think we played a little bit better [than last year].”

The Irish are 2-3 against ranked opponents this season. They did a great job of winning at home – a facet stressed repeatedly by McGraw – going 14-2 in the Joyce Center. On the road, however, they struggled with a record of 5-8.

Notre Dame has had its ups and downs. The Irish lost three straight road games in January, only to come back and win their next six straight. That stretch included a 64-55 defeat of No. 17 Louisville and ended on a high note as they defeated Georgetown 73-48.

“That stretch in February I thought we played really well,” McGraw said. “So I feel good about our chances.”

After that, the team somehow lost momentum, as well as its final three games of the season.

The Irish are likely competing for one of the final spots in the field with DePaul, Hofstra, Seton Hall, Western Kentucky and Auburn. DePaul, having defeated Notre Dame twice in three games and with a chance to continue to prove its worth in the Big East tournament, would most likely get the bid over the Irish. Notre Dame defeated Seton Hall 64-61 on Jan. 2, giving the Irish a leg up on the Pirates.

Hofstra is 23-6 and 13-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association. With a quality win over Michigan State early in the season and a seven-game winning streak to close out the year, the Pride are in a good position to get an at-large bid.

Western Kentucky, playing in the Sun Belt Conference, does not get the chance to gain quality wins often. It finished with a record of 20-8 and 14-3 in regular season play, good for second in the East division of the conference. The end of the Big Red’s season, however, was not spectacular. They lost two of their last three games.

Auburn is least likely to bump the Irish out of their spot. The Tigers are 17-14 and just 7-9 in SEC play. They also failed to defeat any ranked teams during the season.

Even with the rocky end to the season, Notre Dame has a fairly strong resume and a good chance at a spot in the Tournament, which begins March 17. And if the Irish are granted a bid, they will have the chance to forget the last three games and start their season anew.