Another eventful Sunday in women’s college basketball confirmed two things: all things about bracketology are fluid and constantly changing, and the 2021 NCAA women’s tournament will be the most open in recent history.
Late on Sunday afternoon, the NCAA tournament selection committee announced its top 16 seeds for the second time this month. The list reflected the committee’s assessment during Saturday’s games, but when the top 16 was revealed at 5 p.m. ET, three teams on the list had lost on Sunday. A few hours later a fourth had lost. It’s like doing the portrait the way you want before someone splashes paint on the canvas. All of the hard work changed in an instant.
The seed # 1 debate is still raging for two weeks until Selection Monday. And it’s not just a team that is apparently understaffed, or a scenario with five teams for four places. Eight teams have a credible argument for top seed. All eight – UConn, Stanford, Texas A&M, South Carolina, NC State, Maryland, Baylor, and Louisville, and maybe two or three more – could make the Final Four. When was the last time the list of competitors was so late in the season? The NCAA tournament, with all its uniqueness to play in a city, is likely to be the most unpredictable in years.
But before we get to San Antonio we need a tournament field – and Sunday only made that process more convincing. Let’s look at the games that turned the committee’s top 16 upside down and the impact the results had on bracketology.
Texas A&M across South Carolina
The game of the day, it decided the SEC championship in the regular season and had an impact on the No. 1 in the short and long term. The Aggies controlled most of the game and won 65-57, cementing their place on the top line. Both were the # 1 seeds to come in the day, and both stay on the top line, but the gamecocks’ leeway is ultra-thin. A good case can be made for NC State to take South Carolina’s place. The wolf pack beat the Gamecocks in early December.
But South Carolina remains number one for the time being. In its two top 16 revelations, the committee seemed to emphasize that the quantity of quality wins makes sense and that it matters to play more quality opponents. If the head-to-head relationship had been that important to the committee, the NC state would likely have already been number 1 in the reveal. Still, South Carolina was fourth overall and NC State fifth. South Carolina’s 12 top 50 NET wins (most in the country) and the fifth strength of the schedule clearly weighed heavily on them, and nothing about those numbers changed on Sunday.
But Sunday’s defeat makes winning the SEC tournament a near-necessary necessity for the Gamecocks to remain number one. For Texas A & M, Sunday brought a small pillow. The Aggies, with their 6-0 record against the NET top 25, may now be able to hold a top seed if they reach the SEC tournament finals.
Kentucky loses to Ole Miss
Kentucky was the first of the committee’s top 16 teams to lose on Sunday. The Wildcats took a 3-3 lead in February and have no semblance of consistency when it comes to the most important part of the season. Falling Ole Miss at home left a mark on that.
In the past three weeks, Kentucky beat Georgia and Tennessee, but also lost twice to Ole Miss and was uncompetitive against South Carolina. The committee put the Wildcats in 14th place overall, but they can’t stay there after allowing the Rebels to score 48 points in the second half. Kentucky is number 5 in bracketology on Monday.
Aleah Goodman and Oregon State defeated Oregon No. 14 on Sunday for their second straight road win against a senior opponent. Soobum Im / Getty Images
Arizona falls into the state of Arizona in overtime
Much like the SEC’s Wildcats, Arizona seems to be missing something in the postseason. In fact, Arizona hasn’t played that well in the past two weeks. After battling last place in California, the Wildcats scored 48 points in a loss at Stanford, allowing Arizona State, the second worst shooting team in the Pac-12, to score 10 3-point points.
Despite the trend, the committee made Arizona number 2 ahead of Baylor and Louisville on the overall list. That was a dodgy call that looks even worse after the Sun Devils win in extra time. There is no chance the wildcats will stay number 2 now, and it is unlikely that they will be able to get back there without help. Arizona is a 3-seed in Monday’s projection.
Oregon also loses to its rival
The top 16 listing of the ducks was the most confusing decision of the reveal. For every other team on the list, there seemed to be a heavy emphasis on quality wins. Oregon is 0-6 against the NET Top 25. His best win was against the same Oregon State team that the Ducks lost on Sunday. Oregon’s # 8 NET rating – and not much else – seems to impress the committee.
Since mid-January, the Ducks have also had problems staying competitive in their losses against good teams. With two losses to Arizona and one loss to UCLA, Oregon lost an average of 21 points. Despite a narrow defeat to Stanford on-track, the Ducks, who lost three of their last four games over the weekend, didn’t seem to qualify as one of the top 16 teams in the country. Sunday’s 11-point loss to the Beavers seems to have confirmed this. Anything but a decisive run to the Pac-12 tournament final should leave the ducks outside of the top 4 seeds on Selection Monday.
The good news for the Pac-12 is that the Oregon state win – the Beavers’ second consecutive win against a NET top 10 opponent on the road – puts them safely in the field. In two weeks, the beavers in this week’s projection will have moved from the next four to the number 10. Oregon State has postponed or canceled 11 games, more than any other team at the conference. Now that the beavers can play consistently, they are leaning in the right direction – just the opposite of their state rival. Oregon is number 5 in the brackets on Monday.