And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
For those who are used to the way the men's seeding works, there are a few quirks about women's tournament seeding that may be a bit of a surprise. For context, remember that most women's programs do not have followings and supports that lie within the same sphere as the men's program. (The Lady Vols are the rarest of exceptions, and we're happy to be so spoiled.) Because of the lesser interest, the tournament is more mindful of the costs associated with travel and the difficulty of getting already-small fanbases to travel great distances. As a result, the ranking within a seeding matters: the top #1 goes to the closest regional to that school, then the next highest #1 goes to the closest remaining regional available, etc. That continues through the remaining seeds, with exceptions made only to keep schools from the same conference from meeting prior to the Elite Eight.
Also, the host sites for the first weekend are held at sites associated with schools (e.g. here in Knoxville in previous years). When a school hosts a weekend, the committee will always slot that school into their own site, so long as that school actually qualifies for the tournament. That's how you'll get Vanderbilt to host a weekend, even though they're not going to be the top seed in their own sub-bracket. It's a cost and a 'bring as many fans as possible' scheme, and even if it's a bit unfair to a higher seed, it does help defray the cost of the tournament to the schools.
So with those rules in place, tonight's bracket announcement (7 PM Eastern, ESPN/ESPN3) should be largely uneventful for Lady Vols fans unless it deviates from the following script:
There are four: Fresno, Ames, Kingston (Conn.), and Raleigh.
The #1 Seeds
These are obvious. In order: Baylor, Stanford, UConn and Notre Dame (in either order; it doesn't really matter until the Final Four).
Seeding the #1 teams
- Baylor will go to Ames, the closest site to them.
- Stanford goes to Fresno.
- UConn goes to Kingston
- Notre Dame goes to Raleigh.
Notre Dame would go to Raleigh even if they're seeded above UConn because Raleigh is closer than Kingston. So the #1 seeds are obvious this year. Now the two seeds:
Maryland, Duke, Tennessee, Kentucky, or Delaware. All signs point to Tennessee as a two seed, but we don't know if the committee will take Delaware's 30-win season and 8 RPI or Kentucky's 9 RPI and 24 SoS. Flip a coin on it.
Maryland will be the top two seed by virtue of winning the ACC, so they'll go to Raleigh. Even though Duke is closer to Raleigh, Maryland gets first dibs. Duke then goes to Kingston as the likely #2 two seed. The only way Tennessee goes to Kingston is to be the second two seed, which means being ranked above Duke or Maryland. I don't see that happening.
Tennessee will be the third two seed, which places them in Ames, Iowa where Baylor waits. Early-season Tennessee played Baylor tough and could realistically pull the upset. Late-season Tennessee is a question mark but the SEC tournament at least gives reason to hope.
Either Kentucky or Delaware will be the final two seed and will go to Fresno. From there on out, things get hazier.
The SEC looks to have 8 schools going to the women's tournament: Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Florida. Florida is the only iffy school, but I just don't see them being excluded after giving Kentucky a great run in the SEC tournament. It's hard to say who will be in the same bracket as Tennessee, but it's hard to imagine that school being Georgia, LSU, or Vanderbilt. (And we already know it won't be Kentucky.) If Tennessee does face an SEC school prior to the Final Four, it's most likely one of South Carolina, Arkansas, or Florida. All three should be fun games.