Trust me, this bracketing thing is no easy task. This season, I've been doing it for the past three months, and it can be painstaking. And everyone here in bracketology land has an opinion about who should be in, where teams should be seeded and who should travel furthest from home.
Last season, the selection committee missed the boat on a few teams and a few bracketing essentials. This season, the committee hit the mark.
Of course, there are questions, and I'll get to some of those, but this is a fair bracket and I don't think anyone can seriously complain. But I will a little.
I would not have had Louisiana-Lafayette in the draw. I have nothing against the Ragin' Cajuns, but I don't feel they did more than South Florida. La.-Lafayette in and the Bulls out goes against what the committee did last year in putting Cal and Missouri in at the expense of mid-majors such as Western Kentucky and Indiana State. The Hilltoppers actually had better credentials in 2006 than Lafayette does this season.
Not that I can make an ironclad case for South Florida. In fact, as I've been saying all season, the bottom of the at-large pool was not very good, and in all honesty, this was a tough year to fill out an entire field of 64 teams. That's why I can't quibble too much with La.-Lafayette's inclusion.
Fans of Hartford and Montana are likely very upset tonight, but the bottom line is -- and they should know this going in -- you must win your conference tournament if your league is ranked outside the top 10. If not, get ready for the WNIT. That held true to form. The Hawks, Lady Griz, Ball State and Tulane all missed the cut. The non-BCS leagues with multiple bids -- the Sun Belt, Colonial, Mountain West and Atlantic 10 were all in the RPI top 10. That's something to keep in mind in the future.
The major question at the top half of the draw revolves around regional placement of teams weighed against that team's placement on the S-curve. A balanced bracket is supposed to be the top priority, but it appears to me as though geography took precedence in a couple of cases.
We never know the committee's S-curve, and the order of the 2-seeds is really just guesswork here. But the order of the No. 1 seeds should be detectable by the regions in which each was placed. UConn going to Fresno indicates the Huskies were the fourth No. 1. In reverse order, North Carolina was the third, traveling the next furthest to Dallas, then Tennessee and Duke.
That means Stanford as the No. 2 seed in Fresno would be the fifth team overall if the seeds are matched properly. I could see it that way, but I don't agree with Stanford as the fifth overall team. If the Cardinal are not truly the top 2-seed on the S-curve, then geography was, in fact, given larger consideration.
An even larger question would be whether the committee truly felt Tennessee was the No. 2 team overall (and the Lady Vols getting Dayton certainly would indicate that). Then Maryland should be the seventh overall team in the field -- again, unless geography was given a higher regard than S-curve. Neither the Stanford nor Maryland case is nearly as unsightly as placing Tennessee as a 2-seed with North Carolina in Cleveland the way the committee did last year. That was just wrong. But nothing that happened tonight could be defined that way.
Unfortunately, these are the type of questions we rarely get answers to, so we in bracketology land simply must keep making educated guesses. But that's most of the fun anyway.
Enjoy the tournament, and see you next season.
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