Sometimes the bracket is like a puzzle. One look at the pieces and it appears they don't fit at all. A second glance moments later provides new perspective, and the puzzle makes perfect sense.
Each new bracket can have a drastically different look by just changing the order or the shape of the pieces ever so slightly.
That's what happened Monday night. The one change -- West Virginia's stunning upset of Baylor -- gave everything new form.
The Lady Bears' loss dropped them to the No. 4 overall team on the board, while South Carolina made the move to No. 3. My initial belief was that the NCAA selection committee still wouldn't move top-seeded Baylor out of the Oklahoma City Regional. Oklahoma City is Big 12 country -- the conference tournament was played at the same arena that will host the regional. That regional needs a Big 12 team, right?
Despite that mindset, I laid out the bracket with South Carolina in Oklahoma City and shifted Baylor to the Stockton Regional. It's a flight for either school to either location, so attendance is the only reason to try to keep Baylor in OKC.
The result: a better, more balanced bracket -- and Texas as the No. 3 seed in the Oklahoma City Regional, giving it a Big 12 team after all. Due to bracketing principles and procedures, there was no way to get a competitively balanced bracket among the top four seeds with Baylor in OKC. With the Lady Bears in Stockton it's much more balanced -- and it's important to consider this scenario moving forward.
The ripple effect of West Virginia's win continued during the placing of teams. The Mountaineers finished the regular season as one of the last teams in the tournament field. Even as late as the final weekend of February they were among the First Four Out. Their Big 12 tournament run changed all that. West Virginia, the No. 6 seed in the Big 12 tournament, beat each of the top three seeds (Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma) on the way to its first Big 12 championship, skyrocketing up the bracket.
The Mountaineers made it all the way to a No. 7 seed. And the news got even better: With Stanford elevating to a No. 2 seed but unable to host because of a venue conflict at Maples Pavilion, the No. 7 seed in the pod then gets to host. Guess what? The way the bracket lays out -- and with some attendance considerations -- the No. 7 seed in this part of the bracket becomes West Virginia. In just a little over a week, the Mountaineers went from being left out of the tournament to potentially hosting two NCAA tournament games.
There's no better example than West Virginia's story of what a hot finish, some luck, and the domino effect of slight shifts in the bracketing can do for a team.