No one is a lock for a No. 1 seed -- not even UConn

Charlie CremeESPN.com3 Minute Read
UConn's loss to Baylor last week means Geno Auriemma and the Huskies are one of seven teams still in the hunt for a No. 1 seed this season.AP Photo/Michael Wyke

Baylor's win over UConn was more than just an electrifying upset. It ended a remarkable 126-game regular-season winning streak. It exposed the Huskies in a way they haven't been since Breanna Stewart's freshman season.

But the Lady Bears' win also set up a fight for the No. 1 seeds that hasn't existed in years.

By toppling UConn, Baylor keeps itself in the mix for a top seed and is one of seven teams that could end up on the top line on Selection Monday.

This isn't the first time as many as seven teams have remained contenders for a No. 1 seed through mid-January. But generally that included one or two teams that were locks for a top seed -- and five other teams vying for two spots.

UConn has been one of those early locks for the majority of the past decade.

Not this season. Not after Thursday. Not now, at least.

This season, the Huskies are still a favorite to claim one of the top seeds, but they are a contender along with Notre Dame, Louisville, Baylor, Oregon, Stanford and Mississippi State. And they are vulnerable in at least one scenario.

Let's say UConn also loses at Louisville on Jan. 31. And then Notre Dame and Louisville -- which play Thursday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) -- only lose to each other the rest of the regular season, splitting their lone regular-season meeting and the ACC tournament championship game. Baylor runs the table in the Big 12. Either Stanford or Oregon does the same in the Pac-12.

And it would mean Notre Dame, Louisville, Baylor and Stanford/Oregon would be No. 1 seeds. UConn would be on the 2-line -- even with just two losses -- for the first time since 2006.

Likely? Probably not. But it's possible. Baylor swept the Big 12 last season, and the Irish and Cardinals were a one-point Louisville loss to Florida State away from executing their parts, too.

For the first time since joining the conference, playing in the American would hurt the Huskies with regard to the seeding process. UCF is the only RPI top-50 opponent left on UConn's schedule other than the Cardinals and South Carolina. UConn would almost assuredly end up outside the RPI top-10 with a loss to Louisville.

So don't just thank Baylor for a great performance and upset. Thank the Lady Bears for setting up what could be one of the most exciting runs to Selection Monday in some time.

The next step comes Thursday when Notre Dame and Louisville face off in South Bend. Unless there is another 33-point margin like the one the Cardinals put on the Irish a year ago, neither team will lose its top-seed status coming out of this one. The game will go a long way toward determining the ACC race, but for now, it won't have a major impact on the top seeds.

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