The controversial finish to Monday's Rutgers-Tennessee showdownis the kind of critical situation that will be discussed and reviewed with the officials chosen to work the NCAA Tournament;specifically the Final Four in Tampa. Television replays showed the game clock paused long enough for a foul to be called with .2 seconds left, and the Vols made two free throws to win 59-58. ¦ "The Rutgers-Tennessee situation was regrettable and unfortunate," said Sue Donohoe, the NCAA's vice president for Division I women's basketball. "When you have a great game with great teams like that, you hate to have it end the way it did." ¦ When the NCAA's selection committee meets to choose the 64 teams in the tournament, it also selects the officiating crews. At each of the eight first- and second-round sites, the NCAA sends evaluators. They grade each crew then choose which ones advance to the regions and, eventually, here to Tampa.
And immediately before the tournament begins, the NCAA's coordinator of women's basketball officiating, Mary Struckhoff, will hold a "prep call" with all of the officials. She will go over a dozen or so reminders (particular rules that need to be enforced) and identify specific situations and the proper way to handle them.
Donohoe also said a game in which the result is so clearly challenged is the kind of "unique circumstance" that the selection committee is made aware of as it seeds teams for the tournament. The controversy will be a mitigating factor for Rutgers while the win will not be a big feather in Tennessee's cap.
Wide open at the top?
Two weeks ago, Connecticut and Tennessee were clearly the top two teams in the nation, the unanimous Nos. 1 and 2 on all 50 Associated Press ballots. But with the Huskies losing at Rutgers and Tennessee following the Rutgers "win" with a 78-62 home loss to LSU, the top of the polls will be a challenge for voters.
Tennessee shouldn't keep its No. 1 votes, leaving pollsters to choose between Connecticut and the Rutgers team that all but knocked off two No. 1s in less than a week.
ACC powers North Carolina and Maryland also merit consideration.
Stanford is the only team besides Tennessee and UConn to earn an AP first-place vote this season. LSU, Maryland and Rutgers have gotten single first-place votes in the coaches poll.
The sudden parity among the Top 5 also means the tournament's four No. 1 seeds are up for grabs. The league grants geographic advantages to teams based on their overall seed. So Tennessee and North Carolina, for instance, are competing to be placed in the Greensboro region.
By the numbers
7 Losses by Top 5 teams during the first 12 weeks of the season.
5 Losses by Top 5 teams during the past three weeks of the season.
2 First-place AP votes not given to UConn and Tennessee all season.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346.
Women's Final Four
When: April 6 and 8
Where: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa
Tickets: Sold out
On the Web: For ongoing coverage of women's basketball leading up to the Final Four, go to sports.tampabay.com and click on the link to our special index page.