BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University women’s basketball coach Jennifer Roos said she has not given the NCAA tournament any thought.
“We still have seven games to play [in the regular season], including four games on the road,” she said before Saturday’s win at Eastern Michigan. “We still have a game with Central Michigan at home, and later in the year we have a game at Akron. And we still have the [Mid-American Conference] tournament too.
“There are way too many games left on the schedule to get caught up in the ‘what ifs’ of the world.”
And that’s all true. But one of the “what ifs” the Falcons face is a big one: What if there was a possibility BG could earn an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament?
ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme’s latest NCAA bracket last week had two MAC schools, Bowling Green and Central Michigan, in his field of 64. That means at least one would receive an at-large bid, since the winner of the MAC tournament receives an automatic NCAA bid.
If either BG or CMU receives an at-large berth, it would mark just the third for a MAC school since the tournament began in 1982, as well as the first since 1996.
“Ironically, had we lost the MAC tourney in 2007 we probably would have received an at-large bid, so that may be a little bit misleading,” Roos said.
“There have been opportunities in the past.”
One of those opportunities nearly came last year, when the University of Toledo had a 27-3 regular-season record after a loss to Central Michigan in the semifinals of the MAC tournament.
But the Rockets were bypassed by the NCAA selection committee and played instead in the Women’s NIT.
“I would love to see two teams make the NCAA tournament,” UT coach Tricia Cullop said. “I’ve sat in enough MAC meetings to know this league’s coaches all have their eyes on it.
“It’s always been a puzzle we’ve tried to figure out.”
The “puzzle” is to determine what the NCAA selection committee wants a MAC team to do to earn a bid. Interestingly, Bowling Green and Central Michigan present two different choices to consider.
Bowling Green is 21-3 this season and has an RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, of 35. The RPI is a formula that ranks teams based on a team’s winning percentage against other Division I schools, the strength of its schedule, and the strength of its opponent’s schedule.
One factor often cited by selection committees is a team’s record against teams with an RPI in the top 100. The Falcons are 3-3 against the RPI top 100, including road wins against Iona and Ohio State.
Central Michigan is 16-8 but 12-0 against MAC opponents. The Chippewas were 4-8 in nonconference action because they played a schedule that featured seven games against RPI top 100 teams, including three in the top 10.
CMU is just 2-6 against RPI top 100 opponents. One of those wins came in overtime at home against Bowling Green, and the other was against a Dayton squad that won a rematch with the Chippewas less than a month later.
While neither team is ranked in the Top 25 — Bowling Green received five votes in last week’s AP poll, while Central Michigan received one vote in last week’s USA Today coaches poll – Cullop said both are worthy candidates for an at-large bid.
“Bowling Green has three quality wins against teams in the [RPI] Top 100, and Central Michigan played a ridiculously tough schedule,” Cullop said. “They had the courage to schedule those games, but they had to go on the road. How many BCS schools would play a schedule like Central did?
“Scheduling is a gamble, kind of like playing the stock market. You use your knowledge to schedule as well as you can, but you have to have a little luck that those teams are what you expect them to be [in terms of their record].”
The best-case scenario for the MAC would be to have both teams win the rest of their regular-season games — something that obviously cannot happen since the Falcons host CMU at the Stroh Center on Wednesday — and then have both advance to the championship game of the MAC tournament.
But Roos is right that there still are too many games to predict the outcome of this quest.
“It would be outstanding to have two MAC teams in the NCAA — I would be the biggest fan of those teams,” she said. “But there’s too much time to worry about any of that.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.