Notre Dame women likely home for the postseason

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Not only are the odds of Notre Dame women’s basketball landing in its 25th straight NCAA Tournament in March looking about as remote as a snowstorm in July, but if the Irish don’t make it, they probably won’t be in any national postseason event.

ND’s lone apparent route into the NCAA Tourney — with its 10-16 record at the moment and a No. 111 Ratings Percentage Index ranking — is the automatic berth that would come with capturing the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

To do that, the depth-strapped Irish, given their current 12th-place standing in the 15-team ACC, would have to win five games in five days from March 4-8 in Greensboro, N.C.

Even teams seeded as high as No. 5 will be required to win four games in four days.

Meanwhile, 64 programs that don’t make the 64-team NCAA field will still accept bids to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, and 16 that don’t make that will still wind up in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

Don’t count on Notre Dame for either, though.

“You have to have a winning record, don’t you?” Irish coach Muffet McGraw wondered Saturday of something she has not had to concern herself with in over a quarter of a century.

For the most part, yes, you do have to be at least .500.

The WNIT will award 32 automatic bids, one to each of 32 conferences. Those teams will be the ones with the best regular-season league records within their respective conferences that do not make the NCAA Tourney.

The Irish are not on pace to be that team from the ACC.

The WNIT will then award 32 at-large bids, with the caveat being that those teams must have a .500 or better overall record regardless of other factors, such as RPI.

As for the WBI, it’s not expressly stated on that tourney’s website that only .500 or better teams will be considered, but there was nobody not under .500 in the field last season.

With Notre Dame at 10-16, it would have to win all four of its remaining regular-season games — all against opponents ahead of the Irish in the ACC standings —and then win three times in the ACC Tourney to land at 17-17.

Further, there would then have to be value for ND in accepting a WNIT or WBI bid.

“I think we’d probably have to think about that,” McGraw said of whether an invitation would be accepted.

While the three national tourneys will feature a combined 144 teams, while all three say they look hard at RPI, and while Notre Dame’s No. 111 among 351 Division I teams puts the Irish theoretically in the mix, a sub-.500 record — compiled so far in ND’s case against the nation’s No. 24 strength of schedule — would likely kill consideration.

The Irish are not alone in that possible pool, for whatever that’s worth.

Virginia, also from the ACC, ranked 50th in the nation in RPI through Sunday, but the Cavaliers’ No. 1 SOS has left them 11-14 overall to go with 6-8 in the league.

Two other sub-.500 teams are also ahead of ND in RPI, with Washington State (11-15) at No. 100 and Auburn (9-14) No. 107.

While teams that don’t make a postseason tourney lose some practice time that might benefit them in the future, McGraw said such is minimal.

“You take two weeks off after your last game, and we’ll be on break anyway,” McGraw said, “plus it’s recruiting season.

When pondering her team’s postseason future, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw asked, “You have to have a winning record, don’t you?’’