February 16, 2021 

NCAA Tournament seed reveal: UConn is the No. 1 overall seed

Five SEC teams are in the top 16

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If the NCAA Tournament started today, UConn would be the No. 1 overall seed, with South Carolina, Stanford, and Louisville rounding out the top line, according to the NCAA women’s basketball committee.

The committee released its top 16 teams, as they are right now, during halftime of Monday night’s Stanford vs. Oregon game on ESPN. The full list, including teams’ hypothetical regional placement, can be seen below:

With several of the teams listed above currently in action, this list will be out-dated in a matter of hours, but it provides some good insight into the committee’s priorities. Here are the major takeaways:

The non-conference matters

I had Baylor as a 2 seed in my bracket today and Indiana down on the 6 line. As it turns out, the Bears are really a 3 and the Hoosiers are a 4. The discrepancy between where I thought Indiana should be and where it actually is can be explained by the NET. Indiana is ranked 9th overall.

Here’s the problem: Baylor is 4th. The Bears also only have two losses and have defeated five teams in the top 35 of the NET. The only logical explanation here is that the committee punished Baylor severely for a weak non-conference schedule. To be fair, this isn’t entirely Baylor’s fault. It had a game with UConn canceled due to COVID-19. However, a strength of schedule of 78 could have been avoided. Baylor scheduled two Southland teams and a SWAC team this year, surely dragging down its numbers. Meanwhile, Indiana played just four non-conference games but two of them were against Kentucky and Tennessee. Both were losses.

So does the NET

The NET has loved Indiana all year, despite Indiana not having a win over a top 25 team according to that metric. The Hoosiers’ wins at Northwestern and Iowa went a long way toward boosting their standing, but their overall body of work is still thin compared to the other 4 seeds.

This has implications further down the bracket. Rutgers may be the biggest example. Until last week, the Scarlet Knights had not had the opportunity to build much of a resume. In fact, they did not beat a top 150 NET team until Feb. 7. Still, they are 12th in the NET. Expect me to move them way up on my seed list this week.

This could also help mid-majors fighting for at-large bids, assuming the committee applies its methodology consistently. South Dakota is 35th in the NET and was in my Next Four Out this week. USC (55) and Arizona State (76) were both ahead of the Coyotes on my seed list, but that is likely to change.

Losses still matter

It’s not as obvious as you might think. Arkansas, who has beaten Baylor and UConn, has the two best wins of any team in the country not named NC State. It also hasn’t lost to a team outside of the top 16. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, they’ve come up short seven times. The SEC is strong enough that Arkansas can still climb up, but those seven losses must have been too much for the committee to stomach. For now.

NC State, which beat South Carolina and Louisville, was also punished for two forgivable losses. They came at Virginia Tech in overtime and at North Carolina by a combined nine points. That was enough to knock the Wolf Pack down to 6 overall, below a Louisville team that it defeated and that has not beaten a team better than 25th in the NET.

Where is Michigan?

The Wolverine were never a lock to be included in the seed reveal and I had them as No. 16 overall. So it’s not an egregious omission. But given where everyone else was placed, logic would dictate that Michigan should have been included.

The Wolverines have only one loss and it was at Ohio State. It only has one great win (at Northwestern), but that’s basically what Louisville has and it got a 1 seed with the same number of losses. Michigan is also 14th in the NET, which is better than Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Granted Michigan played a weak non-conference, but it was by no means humiliating. It won at Notre Dame and beat both Central Michigan and Wright State. All three of those teams could make the tournament and win a game when they get there.

Michigan has only played 12 games, and with its next three against Ohio State, Indiana, and Iowa, it will have the chance to make its case.

Written by Russell Steinberg

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