Borrowing a page from the book of the fine folks at the College Football Playoff, this year's women's basketball NCAA selection committee is going to give us a sneak peak at a portion of the NCAA tournament field on Wednesday. In essence, it will amount to a condensed version of what I try to do in this space every week.
This year's committee, which is headed by chair Dru Hancock, the senior associate commissioner for the Big 12, is gathered in Indianapolis this week and on Wednesday will reveal its current four No. 1 seeds, in order, and teams five through 20, in alphabetical order. The unveiling serves as a little jolt of attention for the game five weeks from Selection Monday and gives us a small glimpse at how the committee might be viewing the landscape right now.
Now go back and read that last sentence, but with more emphasis on small glimpse. That's what this is. Just a tease.
We will definitely learn something. But without those two through five seed lines given in order, it won't be much.
The No. 1 seeds shouldn't be a surprise, unless the committee sees Maryland's 10 top-50 wins as more valuable than Baylor's better winning percentage, longer winning streak and better strength of schedule. Those two teams have been close for weeks now. The fact that this committee announcement comes just two days after the No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 2 UConn matchup is intriguing. However, the loser should still be a No. 1 seed come Wednesday.
What might be most insightful Wednesday is how the committee views some of the big-winning teams with gaudy numbers outside the five major conferences. Princeton, James Madison and George Washington are a combined 61-4, and each is in the RPI top 20. Does the committee feel all, or any, are worthy of No. 4 or No. 5 seed? Of course, the Tigers, with their highest-ever ranking and strong odds for eventually finishing the regular season unbeaten, are the most intriguing. Princeton has been impressive, but this might tell -- whether the Tigers are in the top 20 or not -- how the committee views a relatively soft schedule. If the Tigers' name shows up on Wednesday, it's an indication that Princeton is on its way to a historical seed for an Ivy League team. (The No. 9 seed earned by the 2011-12 and 2012-13 Princeton teams serves as the current benchmark.)
With no true S-curve-like order applied to teams 5-20, we won't learn how the committee might view the multitude of injuries suffered at Kentucky and Duke, where as some players who contributed earlier in the season are no longer playing. We also won't get a sense of what the committee will do with highly seeded teams -- Louisville, Arizona State -- that are unable to host first- and second-round games. And forget about getting any feel for the bubble. (But that's what bracketology is for; our last four in this week are Michigan, LSU, Arkansas and Washington State.)
So, in preparation for the committee's first-ever in-season public appearance, here are the top 25 (you get five bonus teams here) for the week to save time trying to figure it out from the bracket itself. And here you get in S-curve order:
2. South Carolina
3. Notre Dame
7. Florida State
8. Oregon State
12. Arizona State
15. Mississippi State
16. George Washington
17. North Carolina
22. Texas A&M
25. South Florida
The weekly updates for college football were a huge success. This midseason check-in for women's college basketball could also be a success in its own way. It will spark some debate and, perhaps, some deeper discussion points. In many ways it also serves as my midterm report card. No harm in finding out a little bit more about what the final exam might look like.