With most major conference tournaments beginning this week, there are limited chances left for teams to show the women’s basketball selection committee that they belong in the NCAA Tournament.
That could be trouble for a few perennial women’s basketball powers and star players.
Some, like Duke, need to win a game or two to keep their NCAA streak alive when the tournament field is revealed on March 14. Others, such as Iowa State and North Carolina, have no choice but to win their conferences to get in.
“Things change. Things go in cycles and what’s up today is going to be down tomorrow,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “It’s the nature of things. I think this is a perfect example. You think it’s easy to stay up there. It’s not easy. What we’ve done isn’t easy. If it was there would be a lot of people doing it. It’s not going to last forever. For every team that goes down another has to come up.”
Tennessee most likely won’t miss the NCAAs this season, keeping its streak alive of playing in every tournament since it began in 1982. Yet, the Lady Vols will need to win a few games in the SEC tournament to avoid the worst seeding in school history. Tennessee was a five-seed in 2009 and exited in the first round — the only time in NCAA Tournament history that they haven’t advanced to the Sweet 16.
“You look at the game of basketball whether it is men’s and women’s and you do see cycles changing over time. Certainly I love to see those changes. It is a lot about parity,” Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. “Different programs that have been able to create something special.”
Here are a few programs that are in jeopardy of missing the NCAAs:
DUKE — The Blue Devils have been to every NCAA Tournament since 1995, but that streak is at risk. They already fell out of the Top 25 this season for the first time in 16 years in January and have the most ACC losses since 1993-94.
They’ll have their work cut out as the eighth seed in the ACC tournament. They face Virginia in the opener and then would have to play top-seed Notre Dame.
MINNESOTA — The Golden Gophers have one of the few players in women’s basketball that casual fans have heard of in Rachel Banham. The star senior seems to appear on ESPN’s SportsCenter weekly. It helps when you score 60 points and hit incredible winning shots. It probably doesn’t hurt either when Kobe Bryant tweets at you.
For Banham to play in the NCAAs — she missed Minnesota’s appearance last year with an ACL tear — the Golden Gophers probably will have to win a game or two in the Big Ten tournament. They play the winner of Northwestern and Wisconsin in the second round.
While Duke and Minnesota are on the bubble, Iowa State and North Carolina can only make it with conference tournament titles.
IOWA STATE — The Cyclones have made the NCAAs every season since 2007. The only way coach Bill Fennelly will see that streak continue would be to win the Big 12 tournament. The Cyclones were sitting at 11-4 before dropping 12 of their last 14 games, including an 82-57 loss to West Virginia on Tuesday night.
NORTH CAROLINA — The mass exodus of its star players left North Carolina with a mostly bare roster this season. The Tar Heels (14-17) have only missed the NCAAs twice since 1997, including in 2012.
If Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State all don’t make it, this would only be the second NCAA Tournament (1988) without a team from Tobacco Road in it.
Associated Press Writer Joe Reedy in Tallahassee, Florida contributed to this story.