Ok, so the men's bracket hasn't impressed people quite as much as the NCAA might have hoped. But tonight, the women's side of the house has a very easy chance to show up their counterparts by assembling what should be a relatively noncontroversial bracket for the gals. Things to expect:
The four #1 seeds and locations:
These have basically been unchanged for weeks, ever since Notre Dame went on a bit of a downslide to fall behind Tennessee. The top four ranked teams are well above #5 in terms of wins/losses and RPI, and are clearly above the rest of the field. The NCAA has a golden opportunity to place all four #1 teams in travel-friendly regions as well:
- UConn to Dayton
- Stanford to Sacramento
- Tennessee to Memphis
- Nebraska to Kansas City
Can it be any easier? The only real concern will be which #1 team is on the same side of the overall bracket as UConn.
Stanford should be the second-best #1 seed and therefore on the opposing side from UConn. They beat Tennessee, and their only loss was a roadie to UConn immediately after that Tennessee game. UT and Stanford are 2 and 3 in RPI, respectively, but the head-to-head should dictate this one. Next is Tennessee/Nebraska. NU lost only one game - in the Big12 tourney to a very good Texas A&M team. Their RPI, however, is 5th and their strength of schedule is 31st (in contrast to Tennessee's, which is 7th). Tennessee is the deeper team in terms of talent and can better withstand a poor game from a top player, while NU is sunk if Kelsey Griffin has a bad day. While neither team could really complain if they're on UConn's side of the fence, Tennessee will likely get the pass on the Final Four match and only have to worry about UConn in the last game.
Beyond the Number Ones
After those four, things become far less clear-cut. Charlie Creme's bracket for ESPN, however, does provide a good baseline. And I really like how his projections fall out for Tennessee. The SEC team in the far side of their 16 is Georgia - the one team that Tennessee would really like to play again. The 4/5 matchup would be either St. John's or Iowa State. ISU could be a concern, but I don't think either team has the horses to run with UT if the Ladies play well. The number two seed is listed as Duke (very likely, considering that Ohio State will likely go to Dayton), and Tennessee would love to make up for last year's home loss against Duke during the regular season. In short, Creme's bracket has no pitfalls and would be up to Tennessee to win or lose.
We'll see if there are any oddballs after that. In the meantime, feel free to discuss both brackets tonight (yes, including more venting of the men's side) here.