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The Top 100 Programs in NCAA Division I Women's Basketball: #41-70

Head coach Brian Giorgis guided the Marist Red Foxes to a Top 25 ranking and second round NCAA tournament appearance last season and is signed through 2017, giving the reigning MAAC champion a strong foundation. <em>Photo by Swish Appeal.</em>
Head coach Brian Giorgis guided the Marist Red Foxes to a Top 25 ranking and second round NCAA tournament appearance last season and is signed through 2017, giving the reigning MAAC champion a strong foundation. Photo by Swish Appeal.

Welcome back.  Today, we'll reveal the programs listed at #41-#70 on the list of the Top 100 Programs in Division I Women's College Basketball. 

One aspect often overlooked in the relative strength of a college program is attendance.  Great programs don't rest on an abstract plane.  One would think that a great women's basketball program would be embraced by the community, that the signs of greatness would not merely be limited to the box scores.  But the question then becomes, "if attendance counts, then how much should it count?"

Attendance: The perfect is not the enemy of the good

There's a school of thought that believes that attendance shouldn't count at all.  (Many graduates of that school graduated from evaluating WNBA attendance, where the numbers reported might not correlate with visual evidence.)  If a ticket is sold in the WNBA - or given away and accepted - it is counted in the attendance.  If a season ticket holder doesn't show up to a given game, that ticket is counted along with the attendance.  In the W, tickets sold never equals "warm bodies in seats" - the benchmark for attendance in every other endeavor save sports.  Such chicanery might exist at the pro level; maybe it exists at the college level.

Colleges do have ways to boost their overall numbers.  One way is to schedule women's basketball games as double-headers with the men's teams.  (Those who dislike women's basketball will either a) show up late if the women's game is scheduled first, or b) leave immediately after the men's game if the men's game comes first.)  This gives the women's team a boost in reported attendance - the ticket takers don't count if anyone hung around and watched, only how many tickets were sold/given away/whatever.

Even given the above, my belief is that attendance should be counted, even with the flaws above.  My counterargument is that with attendance, "the perfect is being made the enemy of the good" as in politics.  Just because attendance isn't a perfect metric doesn't mean that it's a useless metric.  The two are different things.  There isn't a perfect metric in basketball.  Not PER, not Boxscores Values, not WARP, not anything.  No single-valued metric is going to capture the complexity of an issue. 

People distort numbers for various reasons, and not all of the reasons are shameful cover-ups.  Take for example a young executive who brags to his friends that he makes $100,000 a year, when in fact he might make $80,000.  Yes, our executive is not telling the truth - but in his mind he expects to make $100,000 someday, and therefore doesn't consider it to be much of a lie.  He's projecting his confidence in his own abilities with his false figure.  Likewise, I suspect that many artifically-boosted attendance numbers are "confidence boosted", representing at some level support for the program that might not be represented in "warm body attendance".

Furthermore, attendance numbers can reveal a lot about priorities within a university.  Take for example, the case of Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  (Unfortunately, you won't find Georgetown on today's list.  Check back tomorrow.)  The Hoyas have a talented coach in Terri Williams-Flournoy and Georgetown went from a 12-16 record in her first year to its third straight season with 20 wins or more in the tough Big East Conference, home of Connecticut and Notre Dame and Louisville.  Clearly this is a talented coach with talented players and there is potential for the Hoyas to go even deeper into the championship tournament.

However, attendance tells a different story. 

Attendance as reflection of institutional priorities

They were a much better draw on the road (2663 per game) than at home (1063 per game).  Why is that?  Namely, because the Hoyas play not at the spacious Verizon Center where the Georgetown men's team plays (capacity 20,600) but in McDonough Arena (capacity 2500).  Without getting deeply into why this is so, this says something about the priority that the university places on women's basketball.  There are similar discrepancies all over Division I, where the men play in superplexes and the women play ball in the minor facilities deemed too small for the men. 

Let's dodge the issue of whether or not playing in smaller facilities would be more suitable for women's basketball.  After all, if the university doesn't appear to make any headway into getting the women's basketball team at Georgetown better digs - then how important is women's basketball at Georgetown?  I can't imagine that McDonough Arena is more luxurious and more prominent than the Verizon Center.  (Maybe more cozy, but cozy only goes so far.)  Furthermore, Tennessee and Connecticut seem to have no problems filling large arenas.

One objection might seem to be that this merely gives programs that can afford larger facilities an artificial boost.  To which I respond, "Not artificial, legitimate."  The facility says a lot about the importance of the program.  Even if the facility is shared with the men, it still says a lot. The Big Twelve has the best attendance in women's basketball.  Can you *really* say that if the arenas were smaller the attendance wouldn't be as great? 

This touches the popular imagination of what it means to be a great program.  A great program is one where there are thousands of screaming fans waiting to cheer each player as she runs onto the court.  And if there are only 16 programs that averaged a home attendance greater than 5,000 during the 2010-11 season?  Well, it's hard to make the claim that those programs are not great programs from the viewpoint of a small gym that seats 2,000 where attendance is limited to friends and family.

For a more complete look at NCAA attendance, please see our previous piece on NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Attendance Winners and Losers for 2010-11. Click here for complete attendance numbers from 2009-11.

Click here for an overview of how these rankings were determined.

Programs #41-70

41.  Minnesota:  Another disappointing year, Golden Gophers go 12-18.  They'll need recruit point guard Rachel Banham (the #5 point guard in the 2011 class according to Hoopgurlz) to get Minnesota back on track after two straight losing seasons.
42.  Marist:  Red Foxes came close to knocking out Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament, ended season with #21 ranking.  F Rachele Fitz (2010), G Erica Allenspach (2011) both lost to graduation.  Brian Giorgis now signed through 2017.
43:  South Carolina:  Coach Dawn Staley stays put after being tempted to Virginia, Gamecocks finish 8-8 in SEC and visit WNIT.  Six of USC's 16 games were decided by five or fewer points and they won four of those six.
44.  Oklahoma State:  Fifth post-season in six years for Kurt Budke, but finished a horrible 4-12 in the Big Twelve and crossed finish line barely above .500.  F Toni Young's post-season ended on an injury from a botched dunk in practice.
45.  Old Dominion:  Over last 20 years, Lady Monarchs won 17 CAA tournaments.  But no tourney wins in last three years means Wendy Larry gets the boot despite a 20-win season last year and 600 wins overall?  Are the glory years over for ODU?
46.  Wisconsin-Green Bay: Undefeated Horizon League season on route to 13th straight conference championship boosts Matt Bollant's Horizon League record to 68-4: Phoenix win 34 games, reach Sweet Sixteen. Bolland signed for five more seasons.
47.  UCLA:  Did Nikki Caldwell take the Bruins as far as they could go?  Cori Close might find it hard to revisit Top Ten in national rankings. Bruins have #20 ranked class according to Hoopgurlz; Pauley Pavilion being renovated.  But senior F Jasmine Dixon is out for the season with an Achilles tendon rupture.
48.  Georgetown: The Hoyas beat Maryland for the first time on the way to the postseason - then beat them again to reach the Sweet Sixteen.  Maryland doesn't need to look in its rear view mirror - yet - but Georgetown is picking up speed.
49.  Temple:  Tonya Cardoza's squad has three players - F Kristen McCarthy, G Shey Peddy and G Quedia Wallace - who have hit the 1,000 point mark.  Next year might be the year Temple breaks through to the Sweet Sixteen.
50.  Marquette:  Marquette makes it to second round of NCAA, tenth straight postseason.  Six seniors graduate, including the three leading scorers of the Golden Eagles.  Angel Robinson becomes a second-round WNBA draft pick.

51.  USC:  USC made the finals of the WNIT last season after giving the tourney the cold shoulder the previous year.  Recurit F Alexyz Vaioletama should help muscle USC even higher up the list next year.
52.  Kansas:  The usual year for Kansas - another winning season, another decent showing in the WNIT, another disappointing Big Twelve finish.  Jayhawks come back intact and pick up #27 class from Hoopgurlz.
53.  Bowling Green:  The Falcons keep rolling with their fifth MAC tournament title in seven years (Toledo was the regular season champ in 2010-11), but F Lauren Prochaska's college career ends in first round against Georgia Tech.  (She made Seattle's training camp.)  Six seniors graduate.  Coach Curt Miller interviewed at New Mexico and California.  It won't be the last time big powers interview Miller.
54.  Arkansas-Little Rock:  Fifth-straight 20 win season.  F Chastity Reed graduates, plays briefly for Tulsa in WNBA.  They'll miss her - she led the Trojans to their very first Sun Belt Conference title.
55.  Penn State:  25-10 record best in eight years for Lady Lions, advance to Big Ten Championship Game and second round of NCAA tourney.  Big Ten Frosh of the Year G Maggie Lucas along with G Alex Bentley will make impact for seasons to come.
56.  Fresno State:  F Rachael Pecota deserts 8-22 Northeastern for a chance to play at Fresno State and brings her 13.8 ppg/6.2 rpg with her.  She'll have to wait a year, but with four straight NCAA appearances,  Bulldogs can afford to be patient.
57.  Texas Christian:  11th straight year in post-season for Horned Frogs.  Wins might be more difficult to come by in Big East, so TCU hopes to finish up its last season in the Mountain West with a final championship.
58.  Dayton:  Flyers come within seven points of knocking off Xavier for Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship.  Second straight NCAA appearance and fourth straight season with 20+ wins.
59:  Wyoming:  Fourth postseason appearance for Cowgirls in five years, made it to third round of WNIT this year.  In each of those four appearances the Cowgirls won 20+ games.
60.  Florida:  Gators lose only one senior, and second-leading scorer G Jaterra Bonds made the SEC All-Freshman team.  Once again, Florida goes three-deep into postseason, averages in four figures attendance per game.  And how many coaches have never missed a post-season?  Amanda Butler hasn't.

61.  St. John's:  Another second round NCAA appearance in a row for the Red Storm, with the final loss against Stanford.  Had a #14 ranking at one point last season.
62.  Illinois State:  Make it three straight WNIT semifinals (2009, 2010, 2011) for the Redbirds!  Stephanie Glance keeps the tradition alive in her first season as head coach, wins Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year.  Given Glance's resume, expect more to come.
63.  North Carolina State:  #28 recruiting class according to Hoopgurlz.  Coach Kellie Harper's recruiting success, a win over ranked North Carolina and 4-digit home attendance last season will make up for a 14-17 season.
64.  South Dakota State:  Fifth post-season for Jackrabbits in just seven years of Division I play, and without a single player on the Summit League first team.  Fourth time leading nation in GPA among all Division I teams in six years.
65.  East Tennessee State:  Fell one game short of five straight 20-win seasons.  Fell two points short of advancing to a fourth straight Atlantic Sun title game.  We'll see Lady Bucs in Preseason WNIT.
66.  Boston College: 20-win season, but 43.1 points of Eagles offense walk out the door in the form of Carolyn Swords, Stefanie Murphy and Jaclyn Thoman.  This season will show what Boston Colege is made of.
67.  Syracuse: Orange can't make it across NCAA bubble despite winning Big East record, settle for WNIT quarterfinals appearance.  Virtually everyone will be back next year - pencil in an NCAA tournament run?
68.  Montana:  Another year without a 20-win season but Montana went back to NCAA tourney after winning Big Sky championship as #4 seed. 40th in NCAA attendance, best attendance in Big Sky conference.
69.  Mississippi State:  Four straight post-season appearances end with 13-17 season.  Lady Bulldogs lose sharpshooting Mary Kathryn Govero - who shot 39.2 percent from behind the 3-point arc - to graduation.  Govero was just named the head coach of a girls high school in Starkville.
70:  Louisiana Tech:  Techsters in third straight post-season with Teresa Weatherspoon as a head coach.  However, they lose F Adrienne Johnson to graduation and the WNBA Draft.