WBB Bracket Complete: Boilers Squeak In At 11
If you don't have the strength to make a Final Four run - and even these days, not many teams can compete with the likes of UConn and Baylor - then all that matters at the end of the day is whether or not you made it, and tonight, the selection committee made it official: Purdue is in, as an 11 seed in the South* region, facing 6-seed Oklahoma at 1:30 on Saturday in the first round in Lexington, with 3-seed Kentucky waiting in the second.
Looking at the 11 line, we see James Madison (Colonial champ), Colorado State (Mountain West champ), and Princeton (at-large - when was the last time the Ivy League sent two teams?), so that tells you all you need to know: if the Good Gals weren't the last team in, they were next-to-last. They're still in, and that gives them another practice or two and at least one more game.
Oklahoma's pretty good, if accurately seeded (Massey has them 24th). They lost by 8 at home to Baylor in late February, beat Texas by 18 a week before that, beat Washington in Seattle in December, and lost by 7 to Texas in Austin in January. If it's any consolation, the Boilers are a bit underseeded (Massey #30); other than that, I don't have a lot of good news.
Looking at their stats, they're an inside-oriented team, shooting .315 from three and .418 overall. They don't shoot free throws that well (.706), and they turn the ball over a lot (0.87 A/TO), but they still force a reasonable number of turnovers (+1.90). They do outrebound their opponents (+3.2), but with skill more than size: they don't start a player taller than 6'3", and while they have two 6'4" players coming off the bench, they combine for maybe 70% of available minutes. Their backcourt is taller than Purdue's, with no starter shorter than 5'9" (Andreona Keys is 5'10", Ashley Morrissette is 5'9", and a trio of Boilers are 5'7"), so it'll be important for Purdue's guards to hold their own on the glass.
Danger lady is likely senior Kaylon Williams, who's started all 31 games and leads the Sooners with 12.7 PPG (on .540 shooting) and 7.1 RPG in just under 21 minutes a game. Williams has also fouled out of 6 games (Torrie Thornton leads the Boilers with 4 DQs), so that thing where Purdue attacks the post like angry badgers and comes away with fouls would be a good thing to see on Saturday. OU's best outside shot is Derica Wyatt, a 5'10" junior who's hitting .386 from long distance (49 for 127); aside from her, Gabbi Ortiz shoots .320 (41 for 128), and Peyton Little is shooting just .304 despite leading the team with 148 attempts (45 makes). Anyone can go on a roll, especially in tournament play, but it seems more likely that an Oklahoma win is going to come at Williams' hands instead of those of a guard.
fivethirtyeight gives Oklahoma a 61% chance to win this game. I can see that happening, but I can also see Purdue harrying Wyatt, keeping Williams from getting too many good shots in the paint, and forcing enough turnovers to keep the Sooners from locking Purdue into a half-court offense. Lexington is an easy drive from Lafayette, but not so much from Norman, so it's likely there will be a good contingent of Purdue fans there, and you can expect UK fans to root for a weaker opponent for the Cats on Monday.
Let's do this thing. Oklahoma is the weakest of the 6 seeds (DePaul is #18, West Virginia #21, South Florida #23), but only just; Purdue is the second-best 11 seed (Colorado State is #26, James Madison #36, Princeton #40). If you're picking a 6-11 upset, the Rams would be the team to back, but Purdue is a close second, and they'll have local fans that the Rams can't easily bring to Los Angeles. Can we get one more game for Thornton, Hayden Hamby, and April Wilson? I think so.
Big 14 in NCAA action
2 Maryland vs 15 Iona, 1:30 Saturday in College Park - 538 lock (>99% to win)
3 Ohio State vs 14 Buffalo, 2:30 Friday in Columbus - 98%
4 Michigan State vs 13 Belmont, noon Friday in Starkville, MS - 92%
9 Indiana vs 8 Georgia, 9:00 Saturday in South Bend - 48%
Maryland has a 32% chance to get to the Final Four, 17% to the final game, 3% to win. Ohio State: 17%, 6%, <1%. Michigan State would have to beat UConn in Bridgeport to get to the regional finals, so <1% from there. Indiana would have to beat Notre Dame in South Bend to get to the regional semis, so obvs <1% for them as well. The Boilers have an 8% chance to beat Kentucky (or UNC-Asheville, lol), 1% to get past Maryland to the regional finals, and <1% from there.
Big 14 in NIT play
Oh, were you wondering where the rest of the conference went? Here they are!
Minnesota vs Milwaukee, Wednesday in Minneapolis
Northwestern vs San Diego, Thursday in Evanston
Nebraska vs Northern Iowa, Thursday in Lincoln
Michigan vs Wright State, Wednesday in Ann Arbor
Rutgers vs Georgetown, Thursday in Piscataway
Iowa vs Ball State, Thursday in Iowa City
The funny thing is that Michigan through Rutgers are all in alphabetical order in the WNIT release. Poor Iowa, off by themselves again. If they'd had the autobid, Minnesota would have been in the middle of the Big 14 group. Anyway, note that all six teams open at home.
*I know the NCAA still uses dumb location names for regions; like the Big 14's previous division names, that doesn't mean I have to use them