Before we get to 'Christmas morning' ...

Editor's note: Charlie Creme has projected the 2007 NCAA Tournament bracket throughout the season, right up to Selection Monday. Click here for his most recent Women's Bracketology field of 64 and his team-by-team analysis. This projection includes games through March 11.

The 2007 NCAA bracket will be unveiled March 12 on ESPN's Selection Show beginning at 8 p.m. ET, with continued coverage at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Christmas Eve has arrived for women's hoops junkies. Not much celebrating will be going on at Hartford, Creighton, Radford, Coppin State, Jackson State or Northern Arizona, all of which lost this weekend in their respective conference tournaments. But for the rest of us -- whoo hoo!

By Monday night, we will know the answers to all our season-long questions. But in the meantime, let us keep a few things in mind, so we don't lose that precious sleep or time at work Monday before the committee speaks.

This is not a new reminder but is perhaps the most important: Teams -- not conferences -- are selected for the tournament. Yes, the SEC is the highest-rated league in the land, but that doesn't mean it should receive the most bids. If it worked that way, this actually would be a much easier process. The committee does not sit in the room and say, "We have to put another SEC team or two in the field because the RPI says this is the best league."

Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Kentucky are not in my last projection because in my mind, individually, they aren't tournament-worthy. The Gamecocks and Tigers are the only schools in the group for whom an argument can be entertained -- but neither finished especially strong, neither has enough quality wins and neither played enough high-level nonconference competition. Simply being a member of the SEC is not, and should not, be enough to get a team into the NCAA field.

Geography is a tricky thing. The women's draw is different from the men's in that teams selected as host schools must play at home, regardless of seed. That means that some higher-seeded teams are going to be placed in first- or second-round "road" games. That's just the way it is, whether it seems fair or not.

In a general sense, the mind-set is that the higher the seed, the better chance of being geographically "protected" -- that is, playing as close to home as possible. But with so many other principles at work (making the bracket balanced, keeping conference foes separate, avoiding rematches, etc.), sometimes it just doesn't happen. So when you think your team was treated unfairly because of where it was placed, keep in mind that the committee has roughly 20-24 teams to worry about in terms of geographical placement, not just one. If your favorite school is a 6-seed, don't expect it to be playing next door. Florida State had to go to Denver last year; Florida traveled to Tucson, Ariz.; and Texas A&M and TCU met in the first round -- in Trenton, N.J. It has happened before. Expect it to happen when the bracket is unveiled Monday.

What I'll be watching most closely is how the committee handles the placement of the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. All four 1-seeds reside on the East Coast, and one of the regionals is in Fresno, Calif. Someone has to go. Plus, where does Stanford end up? There is plenty of logic in saying the Cardinal will go to Fresno because that would be closer to home for the 2-seed. That might be true, but in my mind, that doesn't balance the bracket properly -- and that is supposed to be the top aim of the committee.

I have Stanford as the final 2-seed. If the final No. 1 seed is the one sent packing (and that's the way it is supposed to go), then putting the final No. 2 seed there goes against the basic bracketing principles. However, last season's placement of Tennessee with North Carolina might indicate that is an ignored, or at least manipulated, rule -- or that geography takes precedence. That distinction never was made clearly last March, so what happens this season with Stanford might give us in indication for the future.

Matchups matter, not seeds. This really pertains to the time after the selections are announced and you begin figuring out whether your team can make a deep run. Don't get caught up in arguing whether Bowling Green, for example, should be a 5- or a 6-seed. Look more at the matchups in the first and second rounds to determine the Falcons' chances to advance through the field. It's great fun to argue about seeds as the season progresses. It's especially fun this weekend and into Monday. But once the field is set, be happy if your team has a good matchup, regardless of the number in front of the name. A sixth seed closer to home or against a team with suspect guard play is far more vital than the prestige of a higher seed.

So, as you fire up the Jiffy Pop on Monday night and settle in for the selection festivities, have these words handy and refer to them if need be. They might just relieve some anxiety before you start yelling at your HDTV. Enjoy Christmas in March.

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