Byline: Patricia Babcock
College basketball coaches always seem to get a little edgy this time of year.
They'll get paranoid, sometimes acting as if the whole world is against them - or at least the entire NCAA Tournament selection committee.
That was certainly the case last week when the Big Ten women's basketball coaches gathered for their pre-conference tournament teleconference.
Sure, there was talk about the tournament and what it meant to the conference and how excited all the teams were to play under the bright lights of the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, but much of the hour was devoted to politicking and in some cases whining and complaining.
Seems that many Big Ten coaches feel the NCAA should place at least seven, and possibly eight, teams from the conference in the national tournament field. Anything less would be a slap in the face to the conference, its players and its coaches, they say.
Yet, at the same time, the coaches were skeptical that the league will get that many teams in because they're convinced that the Big Ten has been slighted by the national folks for years. And that this year will probably be no different when the NCAA selects its field of 64, which will be announced on Sunday (6:30 p.m., ESPN).
"I feel very strongly that the Big Ten continues to be overlooked nationally," said Northwestern coach Don Perrelli, who has received five NCAA Tournament bids since 1987.
"And we shouldn't be. We're one of the strongest conferences in the nation. I don't understand the committee and I never will. There's just this lack of respect for our conference on the national scene."
"Perrelli is absolutely right," chimed in Illinois coach Theresa Grentz, who took Illinois all the way to the Sweet Sixteen last year as the No. 4 seed. "I could tell you why that is, but you couldn't print it."
Now what in the world is going on? What has got these coaches so riled up? Is there really some kind of conspiracy going on here?
A look at last year's tournament field - in which Michigan State and Purdue got No. 8 seeds even though they were the league's tri-champions with Illinois - may raise a few eyebrows. But, overall, the Big Ten has fared pretty well in NCAA Tournament history.
In terms of total NCAA appearances since the first tournament in 1982, the Big Ten ranks third with 54 behind the Southeastern (94) and Atlantic Coast (63) conferences.
And, by the way, both the SEC and the ACC have demonstrated much more success in the tournament than the Big Ten …