At this point, it’s getting fairly easy to project where the No. 11 Lady Lions will wind up in the Women’s NCAA Tournament.
With only one regular season game left, they stand at 22-5 (12-3) and have clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title. According to NCAA.com, their RPI (ratings percentage index) is 24th in basketball, but those rankings don’t take the Lady Lions’ Monday win over No. 8 Ohio State into account. If they did, I think Penn State would be solidly in the top 20.
It’s a fact Penn State will make the NCAA Tournament with at least a 6 seed. They would need to get obliterated by Minnesota at home on Sunday and lose in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament for a 6 seed to even have a chance of being out of reach.
Rather, the more likely scenario is a seed from 2-4. I would estimate that the likeliest of those three possible outcomes is a 3 seed. A 2 seed would probably require a title in the Big Ten Tournament, while a 4 seed would be necessitated a quick exit.
So, using the RPI rankings on NCAA.com as tools, and with a little help from Charlie Creme’s “Bracketology” on ESPN.com, I’ve ranked the 5 most likely opponents of the Lady Lions.
Keep in mind I’m no expert on this stuff, and with the vicissitudes of college basketball, the Lady Lions’ opponent could just as likely be none of these teams. But speculation is always interesting.
1. Idaho State Bengals (20-6, 12-1 Big Sky)
I placed the probable winners of the Big Sky conference number one because I liked the way their RPI matched up in the set of teams that seem likely to place the Lady Lions.
2. Hampton Pirates (20-4, 12-1 MEAC)
The only problem with putting Hampton here is that they’re currently in a tie with Florida A&M and Howard for their division lead, with Coppin State not too far behind. If Hampton holds on to win, it though, I think they have a good shot to play the Lady Lions. If FAMU comes through to win it, they would probably be seeded a bit too low for PSU. Howard, on the other hand, would also be a likely matchup for PSU. Only problem? They’re 0-2 against Hampton this season.
3. Albany Great Danes (19-9, 13-2 American East)
The Great Danes are .5 games behind Boston right now, but I think they’re better suited to win it than the Terriers. If Boston takes the division, replace Albany with their name here; I won’t rank Boston fourth for the good of variety.
4. Davidson Wildcats (20-7, 16-2 Southern)
They’re tied with good ol’ Appalachian State for the Southern lead, but they hold a 2-0 tiebreaker against them. I feel like I should mention that none of the teams listed here should pose any semblance of a threat to the Lady Lions.
5. Liberty Lady Flames (18-8, 13-2 Big South)
This is a letdown. I personally want Winthrop to make it just because I love saying “Winthrop” so much. Unfortunately for lovers of cool-sounding college names everywhere, it seems like this is Liberty’s conference to win.