With four games remaining for the DePaul women's basketball team in the 2008-09 season, we will look at certain numbers and letters to see what they might portend concerning the opportunity for the team to play beyond the regular season.
But before we look at where the team might be going, we look at where it has been.
The Demons, now 19-7 overall and 7-5 in the Big East after its recent loss to Villanova, have had a rollercoaster season. After starting out with wins in the Basketball Travelers Tip-Off Tournament in Albuquerque against Idaho State and Alcorn State, the latter a game where the team set a new school record for blocked shots with 14, the team lost in the last few seconds to then AP Top #25 New Mexico, 68-66. Deirdre Naughton scored 31 points against the Lobos and was named to the All-Tournament team along with Keisha Hampton.
The Demons then went on a three-game winning streak, beating Southern University handily and beating Hartford to win the DePaul Invitational Tournament. Naughton was named tourney MVP and was joined on the All-Tournament team by Hampton and Sam Quigley. DePaul then beat Illinois State 80-68 before traveling to Knoxville to face two-time defending NCAA champion Tennessee. The Vols proved that even without Candace Parker, the #1 pick in this past year's WNBA draft, they are still an excellent team as it throttled the Demons 88-67. So, chalk up another loss to a Top 25 team as the Vols were ranked in the Top Ten at that time.
DePaul then ran off seven wins in a row, including a win against Wisconsin- Green Bay, 76-68. Then came the Death March part of the schedule.
The Demons played #5 Louisville, Top 15 Notre Dame, Top 25 Pittsburgh and #1 Connecticut in succession. After losing by 18 to the Cardinals and 24 to Notre Dame, the Demons upset Pittsburgh 69-62 behind Natasha Williams' 27 points and 10 rebounds and Naughton's 24 points. DePaul then lost 77-62 to UConn, at that time the closest margin of loss by any team to the Huskies, who are now 25-0 and still #1. It was at that point that DePaul started receiving Top 25 votes.
After a blowout win against Providence, the Demons faced another tough test with then #21 Rutgers invading McGrath Arena. The Demons pulled off the upset, 60-58, with Keisha Hampton's 18 points leading the way. That win vaulted the Demons to the #25 spot. A narrow 62-59 loss to Notre Dame at South Bend on February 8th hurt the Irish more than it did the Demons as DePaul stayed at #25 and the Irish fell three spots to #19.
The recent loss to Villanova caused DePaul to fall out of the Top 25 and Villanova leap-frogged the Demons in voting with the Wildcats getting 23 points to DePaul's 14.
And while there may be no such thing as a bad loss in the Big East, there certainly are such losses outside of the conference. With five of DePaul's seven losses coming in conference play, how big were the two losses outside of the conference?
The loss to New Mexico has grown bigger as the season has passed as New Mexico has not even received votes in the latest AP poll.
The loss to the Vols has not hurt much at all, with Tennessee ranked #13 in the country and sporting an 18-6 record.
The losses in the Big East have been all been to Top 25 teams, the Villanova loss notwithstanding. The Wildcats are, however, on a seven game winning streak and could be in the Top 25 by the end of the regular season. Losses to current #1 UConn, #8 Louisville, and #24 Notre Dame have been "good losses." The away win against #19 Pittsburgh has gotten better with each passing week. The win against Rutgers, while huge at the time, has diminished somewhat as the Scarlet Knights have fallen out of the Top 25, but remain a force by other measuring sticks. Rutgers is now 14-10, 5-6 and tied for seventh place in the Big East.
The Demons have the following teams left in Big East regular season play: at Syracuse (15-9, 4-7), home against South Florida, which upset the Demons last year (18-7, 5-6), home against Marquette (14-11, 5-6), and at Cincinnati (13-11, 3-8). Those four teams are a combined 2-15 against Top 25 opponents.
Having looked at the letters "AP", we now look at their brethren, "RPI."
While the loss to Villanova dropped the Demons out of the Top 25, it only affected them slightly in the RPI (Pythagorean Winning Percentage calculation RPI), dropping them from 23 to 26.
The worst RPI loss has been to New Mexico with the Lobos' RPI now at 72.
DePaul has quality RPI wins against Wisconsin-Green Bay at 56, Illinois State 45, Pittsburgh at 23, and Rutgers at 22.
The Big East standings as of this writing are as follows: UConn at the top at 11-0, Louisville in second at 10-2, Villanova in third at 9-2, Pittsburgh in fourth at 8-3 and DePaul in fifth at 7-5. DePaul was picked in the pre-season to finish eighth in the Big East, so the team is ahead of schedule in that respect.
So, what to make of all these numbers and letters? Perhaps this: DePaul will most likely need to win out against their remaining four opponents to obtain an attractive seed in the Big East tournament. At 23-7 heading into the Big East tournament, and having only one loss against non-Top 25 teams, even one win in the tournament should be enough to get them to the Big Dance for the seventh straight year.
DePaul Women's Hoops: By Numbers and Letters
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