NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Selection Monday: 7 PM Eastern

The selection show for the women's team promises to be far less stressful for fans of the Lady Vols than Sunday's show for the guys.  With a 31-2 overall record, consensus #4 ranking (which is almost #3 and far from #5 in both cases), #5 Strength of Schedule, and #2 RPI, the Lady Vols are assured a #1 seed for the tournament.  Knowing the other #1 seeds will be Connecticut, Stanford, and Baylor, the regions are also easy to figure out and Tennessee will be in the Dayton regional.  From there, it's pretty academic; we'll be curious who the #2 seed is in Dayton (most likely Texas A&M since it'd be uncomfortably close to a home bracket for Xavier - more on that in a bit), but losing to anybody less than a #2 seed would be considered a huge upset given the way they're playing at this point.

The show starts at 7 PM (Eastern) on ESPN and ESPN3.  General bracket coverage will undoubtedly happen on our sister site Swish Appeal as well, as they exclusively cover women's basketball.  Tennessee's opening weekend games will be in Knoxville at the friendly confines of Thompson-Boling (more on that in a bit, too).  It's a fun time and, like the guys, a chance to get a quick video preview of a lot of the teams.  As usual, we'll be watching the show and commenting here in the thread.  Feel free to join in the discussion or to lurk; we prefer the former but are quite amenable to the latter.

Anyhow, thoughts on the women's tournament follow:

The first mystery is one of forecasting:  who will Tennessee play in a Final Four matchup (assuming they get that far, which will be an assumption from this point forward)?  General comments around the internet suggest that the Dayton and Philadelphia regions are guaranteed to be on the same side of the bracket, though I haven't found official confirmation of that.  But I do think that'll happen anyhow, which would put Tennessee and UConn in a F4 matchup.  That would likely be the highest-television-rated game of the entire tournament, and would likely feature a kajillion or so renditions of the women's basketball equivalent of the Bruce Pearl timeline - the feud between Geno and Pat.

The second mystery is the Dayton bracket itself.  Who are the 8/9 teams, and who are the 2, 3, and 4/5 teams?  If Charlie Creme is correct, we'd see the winner of a Texas Tech / West Virginia matchup in the second game of the opening weekend, which is easily the toughest 8/9 draw in his bracketology.  Teams on the 7-10 seed line that are also viable candidates include Rutgers, Purdue, Iowa State, and Marist (and others, but you get the idea).  Texas Tech is easily the toughest matchup of that entire group and are victims of a dry spell at the beginning of Big 12 conference play where they lost 6 in a row.  But they also beat Baylor more recently.  Meanwhile, Marist has a great-looking 30-2 record that came at the hands of a #258 Strength of Schedule.

Looking deeper, I think Creme is probably right about Texas A&M.  They have a 27-5 record, but three of those losses came to Baylor, and all three were reasonably close games.  They'll be put on the opposite side of the bracket as Baylor to minimize the chances of a fourth matchup this year. 

But otherwise, Creme's bracket is very reasonable.  Women's basketball has more restrictive rules than the men's tournament because of the pod system used for opening weekend.  To maximize attendance, games are played at home stadia for women's teams that are projected to place high in the standings.  Sometimes it fails (ahem, Auburn), but usually you see #1 and #2 seeds playing on their home turf.  If a host site's home team is in the field, they play their opening weekend at home, guaranteed.  That's the nod to attendance, but it also severely restricts where teams can be placed, especially to maintain compliance with the other selection rules (e.g. no more than 2 teams from the same conference in the same regional if possible).  Sometimes a team gets a very high seed just because they're a host and nobody wants to play a lower-seeded team on that team's home court.

Bottom line:  if Creme's bracket is right, Tennessee will have the toughest region.  Texas Tech, West Virginia, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, and Notre Dame are probably the toughest 8/9, 4/5, and 2/3 seeds you could concoct in this year's bracket.  That's fine, though.  Pick any three and line them up; if the same Tennessee that we saw in the SEC tournament shows up, it won't matter.  We'll be staring down the barrel of a UConn matchup on April 3rd, just as everybody wants to see.

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