Jackson State head coach Tomekia Reed is hoping her team’s resume will be enough to earn a long-shot at-large bid to the NCAA tournament after the Tigers were stunned 65-64 by Southern in Friday’s SWAC tournament semifinals.
The loss was only its second against a SWAC opponent in the last 50 outings dating back to 2020.
During that stretch, the Tigers have won four consecutive regular season championships and made two trips to the NCAA tournament. This season was no different. Jackson State went 21-9 overall, 17-1 in conference play, and an impressive 10-0 at home.
When asked whether she thought JSU was worthy enough to receive an at-large selection, Reed presented credentials to vouch for consideration.
“I think we are worthy of it. You’re talking about our average (point differential) deficit in playing Power Five is eight (points per game),” said Reed to the media after the game. “You’re talking about a team whose NET ranking is 92. The next HBCU (Norfolk State) is 174. We’re top 100 in the country. We’re a top mid-major in the country. So, I think we are worthy of a play-in game. Those rankings come based on your NET rankings. The top 100 is supposed to go. I like to see what happens from that.”
But working against JSU is that they play in a conference that ranks 29th out of 32 Division I conferences in NET rating. What’s more, the SWAC as a whole posted a non-conference record of 16-102. Jackson State, which scheduled a tough non-conference slate versus Power Fives to bolster its resume come March, went 1-7 in those games with its only win coming over Texas Tech in November.
Conversely, Jackson State will also have its resume examined alongside other schools that are either “on the bubble” or regular season champions of other conferences which lost in their conference tournaments and will not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
As of Saturday, the last four projected teams that will make the 68-team field according to ESPN women’s college basketball writer Charlie Creme are Marquette, Kansas, Purdue and St. John’s. Those schools have a combined NET rating of 45.7.
Another aspect the NCAA tournament selection committee will likely look at to make determinations will be Quadrant teams and Quadrant wins. The highest-ranked teams in the tournament usually fall in the Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2 tiers. This is where schools 1-75 are ranked. Quadrants 3 and 4 make up teams that are categorized 76-241 and beyond are ranked.
Jackson State featured a single Q1 win. Marquette tallied four such wins on the season. Kansas, Purdue and St. John’s all had three each. Going inside those numbers, Marquette knocked off top-5 UConn. Kansas featured two ranked wins. Purdue’s three Q1 wins were all against then No. 22 Illinois, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 10 Wisconsin (in the Big Ten tournament). St. John’s, another of many competitors vying for one of the last spots, also handed UConn a loss, too.
Jackson State’s only other significant non-conference win was against Southeastern Louisiana, which did win the Southland tournament.
The Tigers are likely headed to the WNIT unless the selection committee does something it has never done before and overlooks all the metrics and data to reward a mid-major with Jackson State’s resume a berth in the tournament.
“It would be time for a new day in women’s basketball history for that to happen,” said Reed. “Obviously, we would love for that to happen, but if not, we still have that WNIT being the No. 1 seed (in the SWAC).
“I feel we played hard enough to get an at-large bid.”
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