By Mel Greenberg
Back in the day when former Atlantic Ten Commissioner Linda Bruno was the chair of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament commissioner through the late 1990s, she made an observation that has worked its way to reality this particular season.
At the time, the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) used by the selection committe was a major mystery to most of the Division I women's coaches who's only view of the national landscape was through the polls.
And so there was always shock and arguments from those that got omitted on Selection Day, then a Sunday.
There was also much campaigning going into the announcement.
On the men's side, there were numerous simulations of the RPI so that the media and coaches had a pretty good fix on things, especially those people whose teams were on the bubble.
"You know," Bruno said on a social call one night a few weeks before the committee met. "It might not be a bad thing to have these RPI simulations for the women because even if you don't know or act like you don't know , you really do know pretty much where you stand."
Not too long afterwards, RPI tables for the women began appearing in public.
And so as we stand several hours before the announcement of the 64-team field, Bruno's remarks back then has some relevance.
With the media pretty much on the same page in forecasting and with most of the data available in this particular year there is a quiet air.
Schools that aren't entirely sure of their place are holding off having parties to watch the field announced on ESPN at 7 p.m . Others are ready to hold a festive occasion that will be marred only if a crowd looks up the column from where their team is placed in a region and screams, `Oh No. Not UConn."
Actually the thought of having Stanford or Tennessee sitting as roadblocks may be lesser poisons to swallow but they are just as deadly.
Thus, there may be some delight or angst or seeding among those who would like to hang around the dance a while. There will probably be few complaints from teams not making the field unless the committee decides to spring an apparent surprise or two.
For example, with regular season champion Old Dominion dethroned by James Madison on Sunday in the Colonial Athletic Association title game, the data does not suggest that the Monarchs should be picked as an at-large squad.
But if they make the field, no matter the denials, the perception will be that some committee types used the fact the Monarchs are an early rounds host site as an invisible piece of data to vote them up.
On one hand, that's really not that terrible considering what is going to take to fill those last few spots. But with data available including the Nitty Gritty breakdown it will be hard to make a successful defense on ODU's behalf being picked over a more worthy team by the data.
But the defense will be well-schooled. We learned that at the annual mock bracket sessions at NCAA headquarters. The media wing of the NCAA listens to the discussions and compiles talking points for the post-bracket briefings.
All that said, what the Guru has been hearing is a lot of people who would love to go to the expanded 64-team WNIT or the new Women's Basketball Invitation, a 16-team affair.
"We expect to have teams that have a lot of talent, even if their records aren't all superior, to make a great field," said Lee Frederick, president of Sport Tours International, which is hosting the event out of Milwaukee that will be played on sites of higher seeds.
The WNIT slots each conference one spot to the highest team from each conference that did not advance to the NCAAs. And then the rest of the field will be field in at-large fashion.
"If they call, we're going and we hope we're hosting a first-round game," Delaware coach Tina Martin said of the WNIT. "It would be a great thing for our young team and if we make a great run and having Elena Delle Donne, that could help get us some early national attention next season."
Old Dominion could end up in either place if not the NCAA. As the regular season champion, they have first rights to the NIT field but Frederick said many conferences are letting their teams, including the perceived automatic qualifiers, make their own decision.
While there is some worry in the CAA crowd that someone will be left out, it appears that many teams could end up in either place. Drexel is hopeful of a bid, as is St. Joseph's and Penn State.
As a Guru guide, having said all that could be said about the NCAA here is an attempt to look at the way the WNIT is shaping up, with the understanding some on this list will land in the WBI.
First the Guru offers the 31 teams likely to be a conference official representative. It is also understood that teams with overall losing records do not qualify.
So here goes:
The Official Conference Reps
ACC - Wake Forest
Amer East -- Hartford if not in the NCAA, otherwise looks like Boston University with 16-14 and 135 RPI. Everyone else has a losing record in the league.
Atlantic Sun -- well good question because the next two best teams did not play in the conference tournament.
Atlantic 10 --- Well, four teams were tied for fourth with Charlotte holding the fourth seed.
Big 12 -- Texas Tech
Big East -- Syracuse (assuming DePaul and Rutgers to NCAA).
Big Sky -- Eastern Washington
Big South -- Gardner Webb
Big Ten -- Michigan (unless NCAA then Penn State).
Big West -- UC Davis
Colonial -- Old Dominion (VCU next available)
Conference USA -- SMU
Horizon -- Wis.-Green Bay
Ivy -- Harvard
MAAC -- Iona
MAC - Toledo
MEAC -- North Carolina A&T
Missouri Valley --- Illinois State
Mountain West -- TCU (if not NCAA or BYU)
Northeastern -- Robert Morris
Ohio Valley -- Eastern Illinois
Pac-10 -- California
Patriot -- American
SEC -- Mississippi (everyone after has losing record)
Southern -- Samford
Southland -- Stephen F. Austin
Summit -- Oral Roberts
Sun Belt -- Ark-Little Rock (if not NCAA)
SWAC -- Prairie View A&M
Western Athletic -- Fresno State (if not NCAA)
West Coast -- St. Mary's
Now to look at the long list for 33. This is a kitchen sink approach. Conference identity in parenthesis.
And remember, the Guru has assumed some bubble teams to the NCAA, which, if left out, will be over here.
We'll have a list in the middle of the night based on release time, though will let our locals know earlier if they're in, if not the matchup at that moment.
ACC -- 3 Contenders Maryland, Miami, Virginia Tech (Boston College here if not NCAA)
Amer East -- None
Atlantic Ten 4 -- St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's, Duquesne, Richmond
Atlantic Sun -- None
Big 12 (1) Kansas
Big East (4) Providence, Marquette, South Florida, Pittsburgh
Big Sky (1) Montana maybe.
Big Ten (3) Penn State, Illinois, maybe Northwestern
Big West (1) Cal-Poly
CAA (4) VCU, Delaware, Hofstra, Drexel
Conference USA (1-3) Memphis, Houston, East Carolina
Horizon (1) Butler
Ivy (1) Columbia
MAAC (1) Fairfield
MAC (1-3) Eastern Michigan, Kent St., Akron
MEAC -- None
Missouri Valley (2) -- Creighton, Missouri State
Northeastern (1) -- Sacred Heart
Ohio Valley (1) Morehead St.
Pac10 (2) Arizona State, Oregon
Patriot -- None
SEC -- None
Southern (0-1) -- Appalachian St., Charleston
Southland (1) -- Texas A&M, Corpus Christi
Summitt -- None
Sun Belt (1) -- Western Kentucky
WAC (1) -- Nevada
WCC (1) -- Pepperdine
Well it comes to 41, which is eight over but remember some will be in WBI and the Guru can trim a lot of fat very quickly in this crowd and none would be at the expense of the Atlantic 10 or CAA.
We'll see how this works out. Back later in the day or tonight
Incidentally, the schedule has already been beefed up with Penn State