Thursday, February 21, 2013

Descending Teams

A few weeks ago I took a brief look at the ascendant teams from each conference, teams that had recently demonstrated surprising feistiness.  This post is about the descending teams with the most recent negative movement in the College Women's Hoops S-Factor in each of the big conferences.

Big Ten
Descending team: Purdue
At the beginning of February, Purdue had amassed a 7-1 conference record and was challenging Penn State for the conference lead.  Since then they have lost four out of their last five, most recently to last-place Indiana, and they are now tied for fourth in the conference with two other teams.  The fact that they beat some very good competition in January buoys their rankings and they are more likely than not still going to be in the tournament.

Big East
Descending teams: Rutgers, Georgetown
Rutgers is currently on a three-game losing streak, and Georgetown is on a four-game losing streak. Right now they seem like the ninth and tenth best teams in a conference that will get a maximum of eight teams in.

Descending team: Miami
Miami has been on a long slow slide ever since the conference season began.  Since the beginning of January, they have yet to put together a three-game winning streak. It's not that Miami has underperformed really -- all six conference losses have come to the teams in the top half of the ACC -- they just have failed to have an unexpectedly good performance against a top team like they did against Penn State way back in November.  Penn State was unquestionably a great win for the Hurricanes, but they have not followed up with another one since then. 

Descending team: Vanderbilt
For the first time all season, the S-Factor is showing Vanderbilt out of the tournament.  Like Miami, Vanderbilt's conference losses have come against teams in the top half of the SEC, but Vanderbilt has kept failing to impress since their December 16th win against an Oklahoma team playing for the first time without Whitney Hand.  Vanderbilt has four more conference games, and three of them seem like foregone conclusions (Texas A&M, at Kentucky, home against 3-9 Auburn). Tonight's game against Florida in Gainesville seems like it could be a season-changer for the Commodores: win and they're in, lose and who knows.

Big 12
Descending teams: Oklahoma State, Kansas
After writing a post on Monday claiming that the middle six teams fighting for second place in conference would probably not lose games against the Big 12's basement dwellers even on the road, this is exactly what happened a mere two days later to the Cowgirls and the Jayhawks.  Kansas had a real opportunity to build momentum and their first three-game winning streak since early December, but they blew it.  Oklahoma State, which feasted on cupcake teams in the non-conference season, was relying on a winning record in the Big 12 to overcome their poor strength of schedule, but then they unexpectedly lost to sub-100-RPI TCU.  Now both teams have to win 3 out of their last 4 to be above .500 in conference, and I think there's a good chance that a team with a 9-9 record in the Big 12 this year won't make the tournament. 

Descending teams: None
As opposed to the Big 12, nothing unexpected ever happens in the Pac 12.  Stanford's 10-year longest-in-the-nation automatic tournament berth streak is evidence of this boring phenomenon.  As such, there is no tournament-quality team that has suffered any recent unexpected setbacks. Honorable mention goes to Arizona State, which in most seasons is among the top three or four teams in conference but has had a bad year despite the return of head coach Charli Turner Thorne.

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