Arizona State loss to USC could change NCAA tournament picture
Arizona State, which lost to USC on Friday at the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament, has dropped six of its past eight games. Coach Charli Turner Thorne says she thinks the Sun Devils will make the NCAA tournament team.
Seattle Times staff reporter
There will be a lot of scoreboard watching this weekend by teams on the NCAA women’s tournament bubble as they know their chances of getting into the tournament could hinge on scores elsewhere.
Among those bubble teams is Arizona State, the No. 4 seed in the Pac-12 women’s tournament at KeyArena, which lost 59-57 to fifth-seeded USC on Friday.
In the latest tournament predictions, the Sun Devils are listed as a No. 7 seed. USC is among the “first four (teams) out.” The Trojans’ victory was their 20th, improving their resume. ASU didn’t help its chances by losing for the sixth time in eight games.
“Every time somebody beats us they seem to think it’s going to help them get in,” said ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, whose team has an NCAA RPI of 21 and a signature win against No. 12 North Carolina. The Sun Devils haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2011.
“We’ve had a very tough back-end schedule,” Turner Thorne said. “Five out of seven on the road and we’re dealing with some unhealthy players. But in all, yeah, I do think we’re an NCAA tournament team.”
Tom Collen was fired Friday as Arkansas women’s basketball coach. Collen was hired in 2007 and left with a132-90 overall record with one appearance in the NCAA tournament and four Women’s NIT bids.
First-year Washington coach Mike Neighbors is an Arkansas native. His daughter Abby, 17, will enroll at the school this fall and his son Alec, 11, lives in the state. Neighbors has been divorced for nine years and doesn’t have a family tie in Washington. His longtime girlfriend lives in Kentucky.
Neighbors, 44, didn’t respond to a question about whether he’d consider leaving. If he did, it would be the second straight year UW lost a coach to the pull of home.
Kevin McGuff, Neighbors’ predecessor, was born in Ohio and said coaching the Buckeyes was a childhood dream.
The Huskies only lose one senior, guard Mercedes Wetmore. Neighbors has been part of the program for three seasons.
Stanford is keeping an eye on the girls high-school state tournament in Tacoma this weekend. Mount Rainier senior forward Brittany McPhee committed to the Cardinal in November.
Cardinal coaches aren’t able to attend the prep tournament due to competing in their own at KeyArena. Stanford assistant coach Kate Paye said the plan is to win so McPhee can watch her future teammates play Sunday.
WNBA reaches agreement
The WNBA announced Friday that its collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union was ratified by the Board of Governors. Los Angeles All-Star Nneka Ogwumike, who was seated among the KeyArena Stanford crowd for the Pac-12 tournament, was relieved.
“At first we were like, ‘What’s going to happen?’ ” Ogwumike said of talk among WNBA players this offseason. She’s a Cardinal alum, and is in Seattle to support her sister Chiney, a senior forward for Stanford.
The last CBA expired in September 2013. Nneka Ogwumike, a 6-foot-2 forward, departed to play in China last fall. While there, her Sparks team owners returned the franchise to the league and a new ownership group led by Magic Johnson purchased it in February.
The WNBA announced an agreement with players after the Sparks sale, pending approval. The CBA is an eight-year deal with a mutual opt-out option after six.