January 27, 2022 

NCAA Tournament Seed Reveal: UConn and Oregon present challenges for committee

The committee has long held that it would judge teams based on how they are on Selection Sunday

With COVID again ravaging the college basketball season and more than one top team facing injury-altered tournament resumes, the NCAA women’s basketball committee had a seemingly impossible job on Thursday.

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The committee did about as well as could reasonably be expected, however, when it revealed its top 16 teams and the regions they’d be placed in if the tournament started today.

First, the teams in order:

  1. South Carolina
  2. Stanford
  3. NC State
  4. Tennessee
  5. Louisville
  6. Indiana
  7. Texas
  8. Arizona
  9. Michigan
  10. Iowa State
  11. UConn
  12. LSU
  13. Baylor
  14. Oregon
  15. Georgia
  16. Kansas State

And by region:

The Benefit of the Doubt

Let’s be honest. We know UConn is good when it’s healthy, but right now, the Huskies don’t have the resume of a 3 seed. No, they don’t have any bad losses, but other than home wins over Notre Dame (NET 20) and Arkansas (NET 26), there’s not a ton of meat to their team sheet. Similarly, Oregon doesn’t have the resume of a 4 seed. Yes, the Ducks have some good wins, but under normal circumstances, that loss to UC Davis would sting more.

The committee has long held that it would judge teams based on how they are on Selection Sunday, and with the Ducks healthy and UConn tracking to be that way by the time the tournament rolls around, both find themselves on the list tonight.

That said, UConn at 11 and Oregon at 14 are really just placeholders. If the Huskies drop a couple more, even before Paige Bueckers returns, they will be punished for it. Cutting slack for injuries only goes so far. And if Oregon gets another win over Arizona or maybe knocks off Stanford, the Ducks have a ton of room to move up. Maybe more than you think — Utah might not be looked at as a world-beater, but the Utes are top-20 in the NET. Two wins over them, in addition to whatever they could do against Stanford, Arizona, Colorado, or in the Pac-12 Tournament could get them as high as a 2 seed. If things break right.

Losses Still Matter

And yes, this goes further than just saying “UConn isn’t on the 1 line even though it would probably only have one loss if it played the whole season healthy.”

Look at one of the teams that beat the Huskies, Georgia Tech. 

The Yellowjackets have wins over UConn (NET 9), at Georgia (NET 25), and North Carolina (NET 6). Yet they’re not on this list. Why? Losses to Auburn (NET 101) and Miami (NET 74). Something tells me a win on Feb. 7 against NC State could change Georgia Tech’s prospects a tad.

Kansas State is another good example. The Wildcats come in at 16 despite five wins over top-50 NET teams (and a 61-point game from Ayoka Lee…that’s not officially a selection criteria, but I figure it’s worth mentioning). But that darn loss to a sub-.500 Texas Tech team is holding K-State back.

Conference Conundrum

Placing teams gets REALLY difficult if there are multiple teams from the same conference huddled around each other on the seed list. In this instance, there were four SEC schools and four Big 12 schools in the top 16. By rule, each must be in a different region. That’s how you end up with Arizona in Greensboro instead of Spokane. And UConn in Spokane instead of Bridgeport. And Oregon in Wichita instead of Spokane.

The committee will bend over backwards to keep teams from traveling farther than necessary, but it won’t break its own rules. We can argue that the one — that teams on the 1-4 lines of each region need to be in different conferences — is dumb, but it’s there and it’s followed.

Somehow, this did not mess with the bracket’s balance. By true seed value, Wichita is the toughest region and Spokane is the easiest. Yet when you add up the true seeds in each region, Wichita (33) and Spokane (35) are separated by just two. Bonus points to the committee for making Greensboro perfect as it relates to the S-Curve (the best 1 paired with the worst 2, the best 3, and the worst 4). 

Written by The Next

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