Some familiar names could be missing from the field when the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament tips off later this month.
Georgia has reached the tournament 20 straight years for the nation’s fourth-longest active streak, but a late-season slide has put the Lady Bulldogs’ postseason hopes in serious jeopardy. A number of other schools also are facing the possibility of being left out for the first time in years.
Here’s a look at teams with relatively long NCAA Tournament streaks at risk:
GEORGIA: The Lady Bulldogs (18-11, 6-10 SEC) have reached the tournament 20 straight times, but this hasn’t been one of their typical seasons. Georgia was 17-3 when leading scorer Shacobia Barbee broke a bone in her lower right leg last month in a loss at Tennessee, making her one of five players to be lost for the season due to injuries or transfers. That trip to Tennessee began an eight-game losing streak — Georgia’s longest since 1976-77 — that didn’t end until the Lady Bulldogs closed the regular season Sunday with a 52-45 victory at Florida. The only schools with longer active NCAA Tournament streaks than Georgia are Tennessee (33), Stanford (27) and Connecticut (26). Duke also has earned 20 straight NCAA bids.
MARIST: After winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s automatic bid each of the last nine seasons, Marist (19-10, 15-5) is facing a major challenge. Quinnipiac (28-3, 20-0) has won 18 straight and defeated Marist 73-55 and 80-62 in their two meetings to end the Red Foxes’ string of 11 consecutive MAAC regular-season championships. The MAAC hasn’t earned multiple NCAA bids since 2001, so it’s hard to imagine Marist earning a 10th consecutive NCAA invitation unless it can overtake Quinnipiac in the conference tournament.
BEAT-UP BIG TEN: This has been an unusual season for a few Big Ten programs. Purdue (10-19, 3-15) and Penn State (6-23, 3-15) are tied for last place in the conference standings after earning NCAA bids each of the last four years. Michigan State (15-14, 7-11) has an even longer streak in jeopardy. The Spartans, who have reached six straight NCAA tournaments, needed to win its last three regular-season games just to get above .500. Michigan State opened the season ranked No. 14, but a series of injuries and the transfer of Jasmine Lumpkin left the Spartans with only seven healthy players at one point in the year. Michigan State lost its first five Big Ten games before rallying late in the season.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE: The Blue Raiders’ bid for a seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance suffered a major setback last week when senior forward Cheyenne Parker was dismissed for unspecified violations of athletic department policy. Parker was Conference USA’s second-leading scorer and rebounder. In its first game without her, Middle Tennessee (18-8, 12-4 Conference USA) fell 62-57 at home to UAB for its second straight loss. Although Middle Tennessee has a quality record, Western Kentucky (25-4, 14-2) is the likely No. 1 seed in the Conference USA tournament. It has been a one-bid league each of the last three years.
VANDERBILT: The Commodores (14-15, 5-11) have earned 15 straight NCAA bids but likely must win the SEC Tournament as the No. 11 seed to keep that streak going. An inability to protect the basketball has caused Vanderbilt’s downfall. The Commodores have committed 20.5 turnovers per game, the most of any SEC team. Vanderbilt hasn’t been left out of the tournament since 1999, which also marks the last time the team finished below .500.
WEST VIRGINIA: After earning a No. 2 seed last year in its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, West Virginia (17-13, 7-11 Big 12) finds itself on the bubble. It hurt its postseason hopes by dropping its first four Big 12 games. The Mountaineers also have lost four of their last six. After erasing a 14-point, second-half deficit Sunday in a 76-69 overtime victory over Texas, West Virginia squandered a double-digit lead Tuesday and fell 59-55 to Kansas State.
IOWA STATE: The Cyclones (18-11, 9-9) are another Big 12 team with an NCAA streak at stake. Iowa State took a giant step closer to a ninth straight bid last week with a 76-71 triumph over No. 6 Baylor — which was ranked third at the time — but they followed that up with a 68-64 loss at Kansas.
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