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Women’s Basketball Analysis: ND still in the hunt for a first-round bye

Bill Brink | Thursday, February 19, 2009

Four games left, time to shine.No. 24 Notre Dame did so Tuesday against South Florida, at least in the second half. The Irish outscored the Bulls 42-27 after the break and won 86-79 in Tampa. But they’ll have to man up, figuratively, against all-world Connecticut Sunday. Ten teams were in conference action Wednesday, and some boosted their hopes while others moved themselves further from contention.

Stone-cold lock: No. 1 Connecticut (26-0, 12-0 Big East)Nothing to say here. UConn will win the Big East and the NCAA Tournament unless either Oklahoma or Auburn has itself a game in the championship.

Also going bye-bye: No. 8 Louisville (24-3, 11-2), No. 19 Pittsburgh (19-5, 9-3), Villanova (17-9, 9-3)The Cardinals won 89-60 at home over St. John’s Tuesday, and their two-loss conference record has them in good position heading into the conference tournament. As long as senior forward Angel McCoughtry keeps up her performance (23 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.9 steals per game), Louisville will be in good shape.Pittsburgh beat Villanova Wednesday night, 70-54, to move into a tie for third in the conference. The Panthers still play Louisville, but finish against Cincinnati, West Virginia and Providence. Nova has it a little tougher – it faces UConn in addition to the Cardinals.

Still in the hunt: DePaul (20-7, 8-5), No. 22 Notre Dame (18-6, 7-5)The Blue Demons beat Syracuse, 87-79, Tuesday and have the week off to prepare for South Florida on Feb. 24. After that, they face Marquette and Cincinnati, so they have a chance to win out and snag a top-four spot.Notre Dame heads into the Huskies’ den this weekend, but after that the Irish face Syracuse, Providence and West Virginia, all winnable games. Should the two teams finish tied, Notre Dame holds the tiebreaker thanks to two wins over DePaul this season.

Right in the middle: Rutgers (16-10, 7-6), Marquette (16-11, 7-6), Georgetown (6-7, 16-10), South Florida (18-8, 5-7)South Florida lost to the Irish Tuesday but played well enough to win in the first half. Junior guard Janae Stokes hit four 3-pointers in the half. The Bulls still have to travel to DePaul and Villanova on the road before the conference tournament.Rutgers and Marquette both picked up wins Tuesday, Marquette over Cincinnati and Rutgers over Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles have easy games against St. John’s and Providence before finishing against DePaul and Louisville. The Scarlet Knights have three winnable games before ending the season against UConn.Georgetown helped itself stay in contention by beating West Virginia in overtime Wednesday. It faces Syracuse and Villanova before finishing against Seton Hall.

The homogenous bottom grouping: Syracuse (15-10, 4-8), West Virginia (14-11, 3-9), St. John’s (15-10, 3-9), Providence (9-16, 3-9), Cincinnati (13-13, 3-10), Seton Hall (15-12, 3-11) These teams are all around the same area. Syracuse has a shot at climbing into the top-eight and receiving a bye, but it would need to win out (against Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Providence) to have a legitimate shot. Since every team makes the tournament, these teams have a chance to put together a run once they get to Hartford. Syracuse, West Virginia and St. John’s have decent non-conference records, so a few wins and a win or two in the conference tournament could get them NCAA consideration.Cincinnati, Providence, West Virginia and Seton Hall didn’t help their causes by losing Tuesday.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of?The Observer.Contact Bill Brink at wbrink@nd.edu.