<
>

What to look for on Selection Monday

Reckoning day has arrived for women's college basketball. Discussion, debate and bubble teams sweating it out all come to a head as we count down to the NCAA Selection Committee unveiling the bracket (ESPN/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET Monday). Some answers have been provided in the past eight days. Others have not.

These are the key topics the committee will answer for all of us.

The bubble

It came right down to overtime of one of the final two games of Championship Week for all the bubble teams to take that final breath. Green Bay's win over Wright State to capture the Horizon League championship was the final potential bid-stealing situation that instead went the way of teams trying to grab those last spots in the field. In fact, each of those situations Sunday had the favorite/regular-season dominant team win the tournament.

That doesn't mean that the likes of Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, Arkansas, Tulane and Miami are guaranteed spots. It just means their chances are better. We've written many times that this wasn't a good bubble year. Virtually no team played its way in. The decisions on who's in, who's out was about weeding through a bunch of losses, when just one or two wins would have been enough. That said, there shouldn't be any complaining for those teams that don't have their names called. They had their chance. They didn't earn a bid.

Who are the hosts?

The biggest nuance to this selection than any of the recent past is that the top-16 seeds will serve as hosts of the first two rounds. What once was one of the most immaterial distinctions in the entire process is now the single most important. Being the No. 16 team on the overall board means two potential homes games. Being No. 17 means probably playing a true road game in the second round. Not much difference, if any, in team quality. Massive difference in tournament circumstances.

Eighteen or possibly 19 teams realistically have a claim to one of the 16 coveted spots. Ohio State, North Carolina and Mississippi State are the three on the outside looking in right now. Cal and George Washington are the last two in with regard to hosting. Those teams are all close, but someone has to be in and someone has to be out. These might be the committee's toughest decisions because, unlike the bubble, these are deserving clubs. An interesting side note: The Buckeyes, even if deemed a top-four seed, cannot serve as a host, just like Louisville. If the Buckeyes are a top-four seed, it opens the door for a No. 5 seed to host anyway.

The Cardinals are certain to be a top-four seed. It's whether they are a No. 2 or a No. 3 that holds the intrigue for a number of other schools. A No. 6 or a No. 7 will end up hosting the opening rounds because Louisville's KFC Yum! Center is being utilized for the men's tournament. (Ohio State has a similar venue conflict as Columbus will be hosting men's early round games.) Teams like Texas A&M and Chattanooga on the No. 7 line, or South Florida, Oklahoma and Texas on the No. 6 line, should be most interested in Louisville's seed.

Princeton might even end up serving as host to that sub-regional.

Speaking of the 30-0 Tigers

Much debate has taken place about how an undefeated team could not be a top-four seed and hosting. Yet we learned, plainly, 3½ weeks ago from the committee's release of its top-20 teams that Princeton was not considered among them. That means the Tigers weren't even a top-five seed let alone in line to host. If they weren't among the first 16 teams then, they shouldn't be now if any consistency in thinking exists. Princeton was undefeated then too and none of the wins since have elevated that status.

Fans of the underdog might not like to hear this, but it could end up being better that Princeton is a No. 6 seed and not a No. 5. If Louisville falls to a No. 3 seed, the Tigers would be a prime candidate to host anyway. This is a case of lower could be better when the top-four slots are not realistic. A smaller probability, but one nonetheless, could exist if Princeton is a No. 5 and Ohio State sneaks into the top-16.

Geography of top seeds

As the clock ticks down to the selection show, this remains -- as it has been for weeks -- the greatest of conundrums for this bracketologist. And it's difficult to get a great feel either way because of some committee inconsistencies of the past. Sure, it makes sense to have South Carolina in Greensboro. I wouldn't be shocked if that happened.

However, if Notre Dame is the No. 2 overall team -- and the Irish should be -- then Notre Dame technically should be in Greensboro. If the committee decides that the difference of a couple hundred miles shouldn't keep the Gamecocks from playing there instead, there are ripple effects. Most notably, if the rules of geographic placement based on the S-curve are being applied, then Tennessee, the top No. 2 seed, would wind up in Albany with UConn, the top No. 1 seed.

Fans and the media don't like that. When it happened previously in 2008, there was a committee reaction the other way in 2009.

If South Carolina is in Greensboro and Tennessee is not in Albany then the stated rules on geography were not applied and that opens another round of questions.

This might be the aspect of the bracket come Monday night.