The wait is nearly over. The women's NCAA tournament bracket will be unveiled Monday night (ESPN, 7 ET). Sometimes the revealing of the 64-team field provides clarity to a season full of uncertainty. In other seasons, the answers just lead to more questions.
In one of the most wide-open women's college basketball seasons in recent history, there will be plenty of time to debate the bracket later. For now, these are the biggest questions facing the NCAA women's selection committee:
Are the No. 1 seeds a lock?
Baylor, Notre Dame, UConn and Mississippi State have been the No. 1 seeds in our bracketology projections for the past week. Mississippi State appears to have earned a spot on the top line with its outright SEC regular-season championship and conference tournament title.
However, it's not unreasonable to think that enough committee members could favor Louisville for the last No. 1 seed instead. The Cardinals have a better RPI, a stronger schedule, and more top-25 and top-50 RPI wins. Of Louisville's three losses, two came against Notre Dame, which is a lock for a No. 1 seed, and the other was to Miami, which will likely be a top-16 team come Monday night.
The Bulldogs lost just twice all season, and those two championships should count for something. The only other teams in the conversation for No. 1 seeds who swept their regular-season and conference tourney titles? Fellow projected 1-seeds Baylor, Notre Dame and UConn.
Is Tennessee in or out?
The fate of the Lady Vols has been the most popular talking point of the past month. Tennessee has played in every NCAA tournament since its inception in 1982, but a mixed bag of a season has left the Lady Vols as the biggest mystery in the selection process.
Tennessee's inclusion in Sunday's "debatable eight" meant the Lady Vols are among either the "last four in" or the "first four out" when it comes to the field.
In some seasons, this Tennessee résumé might not have been good enough to earn an at-large bid. Just last season, Rutgers was left out of the field -- and the Scarlet Knights' profile was better in a number of key areas (better record, more top-50 wins, fewer bad losses, stronger schedule).
If the Lady Vols get in -- and they are the second-to-last team in the field in our final projection through Sunday's games -- they will have been the beneficiary of a weak bubble that got softer by the day during Champ Week.
Which teams get the last spots to host?
The most important decision the committee makes each year is not whether a team is a No. 1 or No. 2 seed or which of the last few teams are in or out of the field. It's which teams are 15 and 16 on the board versus 17 and 18.
What's at stake? The top 16 teams host the first two rounds, while teams 17-20 potentially face playing a true road game in the second round. That's a whole different route to the Sweet 16 and beyond.
Of course, Duke as a No. 5 seed last season went to No. 4 Georgia in the second round and won. DePaul nearly did the same to Texas A&M. In 2017, Ohio State did it to Kentucky, and Quinnipiac as a 12-seed upset No. 5 Miami in South Florida. Those home courts are not absolutes, but there isn't a team/coach in the country that wouldn't prefer to land at No. 16 overall than No. 17.
Given the NCAA's March 4 top-16 reveal and what has happened since, South Carolina, Iowa State and Texas A&M are likely to be holding down the final spots to host. Marquette and Gonzaga had chances to jump in, but each lost in its respective conference tournament final. Kentucky lost its first game in the SEC tournament, spoiling its hopes. That defeat came at the hands of Missouri, which also needed to do more to bounce the Gamecocks, Cyclones or Aggies.
Of course, if South Carolina lands in the top 16, remember its games will be played in Charlotte, as the Gamecocks' Colonial Life Arena is being used for men's NCAA tournament games.
Is Missouri State a bid-stealer?
All of the teams from non-Power 5 leagues that needed to win to preserve the status of the bubble did just that -- until Sunday and the final day of conference tournament play.
Seven bids were on the line Sunday, and the second-to-last championship game of the day saw a dominant performance in the Missouri Valley Conference final by Missouri State in a win over Drake, a team already securely in the field as an at-large.
Did the Bears steal a bid from someone? The initial answer was yes. However, after the committee's debatable eight reveal, it's possible that wasn't the case. The committee might have already felt the Bears were worthy of a bid, win or lose, and those final four teams were already locked in.
When the entire field is released, we'll know for sure. It's just one more thing to watch for on Selection Monday.