The NCAA women's basketball committee gave us a little taste of what's to come on Selection Monday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) with its inaugural reveal on Sunday of the final eight teams being considered for the bracket.
The committee indicated it took six hours just to arrive at the final eight, so there's no doubt that putting together the rest of the bracket was painstaking.
What areas probably took up most of the committee's time? What are the biggest decisions to watch for when the bracket is unveiled? We've got you covered.
Will Baylor be a No. 1 seed?
This has been the top question for a few weeks. The Lady Bears put together a 31-1 record, winning Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles. That kind of season is worthy of a No. 1 seed, and the Lady Bears probably should be one. The problem is, UConn, Mississippi State, Louisville and Notre Dame should be too. That math doesn't work in any bracket. And with only four No. 1 seeds to hand out, Baylor will likely be the one left out.
The Lady Bears played the weakest schedule of the group and, as a result, had the fewest top-50 wins. Baylor had six. The Huskies, Bulldogs, Cardinals and Irish were all in double figures.
Still, Baylor might have surpassed Notre Dame onto the 1 line if senior point guard Kristy Wallace -- the heart and soul of the team -- hadn't suffered a season-ending knee injury in Baylor's regular-season finale on Feb. 26. Without Wallace, the Lady Bears aren't the same team that orchestrated a brilliant season. Player availability is one piece of committee criteria, and that can't be discounted.
Freshman Alexis Morris played well in the Big 12 tournament as Baylor's full-time point guard. She has been a contributor all season with 8.9 points per game and 3.2 assists per game, but her role has changed significantly and three games might have been too small of a sample size for the committee to get a feel for what Baylor is without Wallace.
So what happens if the committee makes Baylor a No. 1 seed? The dynamic of the bracket changes quite a bit.
If the Lady Bears are a No. 2 seed in Lexington -- Baylor's spot in the most recent espnW Bracketology and in the committee's last reveal -- that means fellow No. 2 seed Oregon is in Spokane, No. 2 Texas is in Kansas City and No. 2 South Carolina is in Albany.
However, Baylor as a No. 1 seed would likely go to Kansas City, with Notre Dame as the No. 2. That pushes Mississippi State elsewhere, and since Albany is already accounted for by UConn -- and it's unlikely the committee would pull Louisville out of Lexington -- the Bulldogs would get sent to Spokane. Oregon would stay there as the No. 2 for the same geographic proximity reasons that the Cardinals stay in Lexington. That also would move South Carolina to Lexington and Texas to Albany.
Two different possibilities for Baylor, and two different brackets for the top seeds. The first scenario seems most likely.
How to interpret Sunday's final eight reveal?
On Sunday, the committee revealed the final eight teams being considered for the last four spots in the bracket. That list was very similar to the bubble in our last Bracketology update, with seven of the eight teams the same. The one difference: Nebraska didn't show up on the committee's list but was our last team in the field.
So what does it mean? The committee likely felt better about the Cornhuskers and has them safely in the field. I don't think Nebraska gets left out.
Minnesota now becomes the team that is not as safely in the field. But again, I don't think the Gophers get left out, and I hold firm on my other three -- Rutgers, Buffalo and Creighton -- as the teams from the committee's list on Sunday that ultimately make the field. That leaves West Virginia, USC, Oklahoma and Purdue out.
The way the committee sees Buffalo and Oklahoma -- two teams with unusual profiles -- is one of the most intriguing questions before the bracket comes out. The Bulls have a 22 RPI but a 200 schedule strength. Those two things rarely go together. They have only beaten two top-50 RPI teams -- Ball State and Central Michigan -- but they also have 11 top-100 wins. The numbers are less consistent with the Bulls than any team in recent memory, meaning history doesn't exist to indicate how the committee might view Buffalo's profile.
Oklahoma has an RPI of 35, and it played the second-toughest schedule in the country. However, despite nine chances, the Sooners only beat one top-50 team (South Florida). Oklahoma's eight top-100 wins also fall short of the teams on the right side of the bubble in Bracketology -- except Creighton. The Sooners' 16-14 record might be the hardest part to overcome; one more loss and the Sooners would have been a .500 team. This will likely come down to how much weight the committee puts on Oklahoma's effort to schedule strong competition in November and December.
Who takes the final spots as host schools?
Perhaps the most important decision before the committee is finalizing the 16 teams that will host first- and second-round games. Judging from the committee's three reveals, 19 teams likely have a reasonable argument to be included in the top 16.
Georgia, Texas A&M and NC State are the last three teams in the top 16 in Bracketology. The Lady Dogs and Wolfpack also were in the final reveal on Feb. 19. The Aggies were not, but they likely elevated themselves with wins over Missouri and LSU since.
Duke, Maryland and South Florida are the three teams likely to be left on the outside looking in. All have better RPI and SOS than Georgia and comparable top-50 wins. The difference is that the Lady Dogs were in that last reveal, and they have since gone 4-1, with only a loss to South Carolina in the SEC tournament. It seems unlikely that would cause Georgia to fall out of the top 16.