UALR women appear to be squarely on the bubble again this year for NCAA Women's Tournament

   Much like last year, it's not clear where the UALR women stand in the eyes of the NCAA Women's Basketball Committee.
   UALR has posted very similar numbers to last year's team, which was believed to be one of the final two at-large selections to the NCAA Women's Tournament. UALR rewarded the committee's faith by upsetting Georgia Tech in the first round.
   I ran the numbers over and over and over again last year. Ultimately, I decided that UALR was going to get left out of the field by one spot. I was wrong
   Last year and this year are similar, but have different strengths and weaknesses:
  • Conference record: 17-1 last year, 12-1 this year (with three games remaining)
  • Overall record: 26-6 last year (after SBT); 18-6 this year (with six possible games remaining)
  • RPI: 57 last year, 59 this year (projects to finish in high 40s or low 50s)
  • Strength of schedule: 164 last year, 105 this year
  • Vs. Top 25: 1-3 last year; 0-1 this year
  • Vs. 25 to 50: 0-0 last year; 2-1 this year
   Last year's team had one very big advantage. Their loss in the Sun Belt Tournament snapped a 22-game winning streak. And it came on a last-second shot in overtime of one of the best games of the year.
   This year's UALR advantage will have to come from what might have been. In a one-point loss to Southern Miss, senior Shanika Butler didn't play and senior Chastity Reed only played 12 minutes. And in a loss to Memphis, Reed didn't make the trip.
   Of course, losing at home to Western Kentucky last week hurts far more than if the Trojans had dropped either road game this week to South Alabama or Arkansas State.
   UALR's overall record isn't going to look as impressive even if it wins out until the championship game. Part of the reason is that the Trojans are playing two fewer games than allowed. They were already one short at the start of the season after having difficulty finding teams to play. Then they had to cancel the game against South Dakota State due to travel (Sugar Bowl?) complications. South Dakota State is only 15-14 on the season, so it's not clear how much that game would have helped. Two more victories would definitely help the winning percentage.
  The only thing for sure is that UALR is going to have to sweat it out if it doesn't win the Sun Belt Tournament.