Story by Tyler Lamb // Staff Writer | Photo by Gregory French // Sidelines Archive
The Lady Raiders were awarded with a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament and are set to face the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles. While the odds appear stacked against MTSU, the 5-12 matchup often ends in an upset.
Since the first woman’s NCAA Tournament in 1982, 12 seeds have won nearly 20 percent of the face-offs against five seeds. Even more common in men’s basketball, the 12 seeds have left with a victory 32 percent of all-time matchups.
Heading into Saturday’s game, the Lady Raiders feel confident about their chances at boosting the woman’s statistic.
“I definitely have the confidence in my team that we can pull this off,” said forward Alex Johnson. “I feel if we just do what we do and do it to the best of our ability, we can go out there and beat Florida State.”
“Yes, we can pull off the upset,” guard Ty Petty said. “We’re not going to back down from anybody. There wasn’t a team that we didn’t want to play.”
Head Coach Rick Insell prepared his team to the best of his ability with a solid schedule and record to go along with their conference championship. But at the end of the day, the selection of their March Madness opponent was left in the hands of the NCAA.
The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Sport Committee is responsible for selecting and seeding the NCAA Tournament. The 10-person committee is made of up school and conference administrators who are nominated by their conference.
The members spend unimaginable hours studying and watching teams during the regular season and come season’s end, they are expected to be experts on the teams within their assigned regions.
MTSU Senior Associate Athletic Director Diane Turnham is serving in this very capacity. She is primarily responsible for the American Athletic Conference, the Big South, the OVC and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
From November until last Sunday, her life consisted of conference calls, plane trips, studying statistics and watching countless amounts of games on her computer or in person, in addition to her duties at the university. She broke teams down to the nth degree, even looking at a team’s strength of schedule, their opponent’s strength of schedule and their opponent’s opponent’s strength of schedule. Needless to say, she knows woman’s Division I Basketball very well.
When designing the bracket, the committee doesn’t know who will be playing who until after the bracket is completed. They procedurally start at the one seeded teams and work their way out to 16.
Unlike the men’s tournament, the top 16 teams in the women’s tournament are awarded their first round game at home.
The 5-12 matchup is designed with respect that the five seed isn’t worthy enough of home-court advantage and the 12 seed is not poor enough to fall into having to play these teams on their opponent’s floors.
“That’s big, that’s big,” said head Coach Rick Insell about his team not having to play in Tallahassee. “Anytime you can play a team on a neutral court, it doesn’t do anything but help you.”
Turnham said the competitive nature of the 5-12 matchup is so high because after the first 12 seeded teams, it gets very convoluted. The teams in the lower part of the bracket usually come from conferences with a higher RPI and receive their conference automatic bid.
“You’ve got your teams down there in the bottom that have an automatic bid and they’re just getting in and it would be difficult for one of them to upset somebody,” Turnham said.
The best matchups are found between the five and 12 teams because they are the true middle of the pack.
“After that top four and after that bottom four, there’s a lot of parity,” said Turnham. “Teams are very similar and on any given night, any of those could beat each other.”
MTSU pulled off this same upset in 2005 when they beat No. 5 NC State and advanced to the round of 32.
This years squad will get their shot at sending FSU home early Saturday at 12:35 p.m. CT at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.
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