Middle Tennessee just held on to beat Arkansas-Little Rock 70-68 in overtime in the women’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament final, and it’s time to take a look at how this shakes out for Western.
I can only assume the Lady Toppers would have preferred that this game go the other way.
Had UALR secured an NCAA Tournament berth, Middle Tennessee would have been hard to leave out of the Big Dance at 24-6 with an RPI of 23. With both of those teams in, No. 3 Western would have received an automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament as the highest Sun Belt team not headed to the NCAA tourney.
But with Middle Tennessee winning the Sun Belt, things become a little murky. Sure, UALR boasted a 21-game win streak heading into Tuesday’s final. But the Trojans’ RPI of 51 isn’t doing them any favors, especially coming from a weaker mid-major conference.
The bottom line is that the Lady Toppers will now have to wait to see UALR’s fate before they know theirs. Although, Western could still very well pick up an at-large bid to the WNIT with a 21-10 record.
We’ll just have to wait until both fields are announced on Monday night. For more on Western’s WNIT chances, click here.
- One more observation from the Sun Belt final, and it’s an obvious one – how good is MTSU senior forward Alysha Clark?
Clark broke her own Sun Belt Tournament single-game scoring record Tuesday with 48 points, including the game-winning basket with three seconds left in overtime.
In fact, Clark broke the single-game scoring record in each of MTSU’s three games in the tournament. She averaged 44 points and 14.7 rebounds over that span.
According to ESPN.com, Clark was tied for first in the nation in scoring at 26.9 points per game on Feb. 28th, but it would seem that her Sun Belt tourney performance had to vault her into sole possession of first place.
Clark is a likely first-round pick in April’s WNBA Draft. DraftSite.com projects her going fourth overall to Chicago.
For those interested, ESPN.com’s Graham Hays wrote a good article a few weeks back in 2009 on Clark’s journey from Belmont to Middle Tennessee to one of the best players in the nation.
UPDATE (10:54 p.m.) – Thank you to the reader who pointed out to me that my date on Graham Hays’ article was incorrect. For a more up-to-date look at Clark, check out The Tennesseean’s profile on the MTSU senior from this past Sunday.