ESPN bracketology guy maps CouGals' route

SO WASHINGTON STATE has no chance to land an at-large bid in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, right? Think again. We asked women’s hoops bracketology wizard – ESPN’s Charlie Creme – to weigh in on the the Cougs.

It's by no means an easy road, but Cougar fans should hope (in addition to a good showing by WSU in the Pac-12 tournament) that Chattanooga, FGCU, Green Bay, and JMU all win their conference tournaments.

“That limits an extra bids from those leagues,” says Creme. “They should root for Miami and West Virginia to lose, along with Michigan, N.C. State and Tulane.”

And Washington State needs to go deep into the Pac-12 tournament, Creme says. The seventh-seeded Cougs (16-13, 7-11) meet tenth-seeded Oregon (13-16, 6-12) at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in a first-round game. ASU, the No. 2 seed, awaits the winner. If the seedings hold, Stanford would be the semifinal opponent.

Depending on what happens elsewhere, Creme says WSU would probably need a run to the final, three wins in the Pac-12 tournament, to land an at-large berth to the Big Dance.

“Generally there are not huge swings at this point, but the most movement would be on the bubble this year,” says Creme. “The teams holding the last spots are vulnerable because those résumés aren't good either. A couple of additional big wins for WSU would really help. The committee has seemed to like teams who can prove they can beat the better clubs. The wins over Maryland and Washington are big, but another couple would be helpful because WSU falls short in so many other areas.”

WSU’s RPI is 72, they’re 1-5 vs. the top 25 and 3-10 vs. the top 50 (Sagarin). Working in their favor, they played the nation’s 26th toughest schedule. One category doesn’t hold sway over the others, said Creme.

“There isn't a most or least. All the things we hear about -- RPI, strength of schedule, non conference SOS, road/neutral, conference record, overall record, top-50 wins, wins against the rest of the at-large pool, etc. are part of the discussion points for committee members,” said Creme.

Washington State this season split the season series against Oregon, went 0-2 vs. Stanford and lost at ASU. The loss to Oregon was by one point and the Cougs had Stanford on the ropes in one game before allowing a late Cardinal run that forced overtime. While far from an ideal scenario, the Cougs unlike recent years are at least capable of making a run in the conference tourney.

Creme this week placed WSU on top of his “next four out” category, with N.C. State, Michigan, Tulane and San Diego the “first four out.”

The Cougs haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991. Last year’s NIT squad marked the first tournament appearance by the Cougars since that ’91 season. Does the long absence hurt, help or neither in gaining an NCAA bid?

“That doesn't have any bearing whatsoever, this year is the only thing the committee discusses,” said Creme. “The committees have always done a great job. It's not an easy one. There is so much to take into account and so many games to pay attention to. I have quibbled in the past with consistency on certain things from year to year, like geographical placement, but mostly this is a conscientious group year to year who takes this very seriously and delivers a good tournament.”

Washington State has put in a bid to host first- and second-round games in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) if they fail to crack the NCAA field. Click here for more: THE CF.C BLOG

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