How about a little taste of March Madness in February? The NCAA Division I women's basketball selection committee whetted everyone's appetite for bracket debates Wednesday by releasing its projected four No. 1 seeds -- UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Tennessee -- along with 16 other teams that currently make up the top 20.
The latter were listed alphabetically, though, not where the teams theoretically would fall on seed lines. The most notable team omitted was Princeton, which at 21-0 is the only undefeated team left in Division I women's college hoops this season. Selection committee chair Dru Hancock told espnW that the Tigers were hampered by their RPI and strength of schedule.
Obviously, a lot could -- and probably will -- change before the real bracket is done in March. Still, Wednesday's "reveal" was a glimpse into what the committee is thinking with about a month left before Selection Monday on March 16 (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).
Among the four No. 1s, which were listed in the order that the committee currently has them, the Lady Vols were the biggest surprise. UConn, which this week defeated previously unbeaten South Carolina, was the obvious overall No. 1 at 23-1. Notre Dame, 23-2, currently is atop the ACC at 10-1, with Florida State at 9-1.
Tennessee is tied with South Carolina atop the SEC at 10-0, but the Lady Vols have three losses -- to Texas and Chattanooga in November, and Notre Dame in January. Tennessee visits South Carolina on Feb. 23, a Big Monday telecast (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET).
Baylor, which currently is ranked third in the Associated Press poll, was expected by many to grab the other No. 1 spot. The Lady Bears are 22-1, with their only loss coming at Kentucky in November. Maryland, which is 22-2 overall and 13-0 in the Big Ten, is the other team thought to be in the running right now for a potential No. 1 seed. The Terps' losses were back to back, to Washington State and Notre Dame in late November and early December.
Hancock said there was not a lot of difference among the résumés of Tennessee, Baylor and Maryland to this point, but the Lady Vols got the nod based mostly on their strength of schedule.
She also said Baylor had yet to play the second-place Big 12 team, Oklahoma, when the committee announced this list. The first meeting between those rivals is Wednesday in Waco, Texas, with the rematch Feb. 25 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma, despite seven losses this season, is on the list of the other 16 teams. So is Stanford, another seven-loss team.
Along with Princeton, Mississippi State was another surprise omission from the NCAA's top 20. The Bulldogs, 23-3 overall and at 8-3 tied for third place in the SEC, are coming off an overtime victory over Texas A&M on Sunday. The Aggies, 18-6 overall and 6-4 in the SEC, made the list.
Being one of the top four seeds in each region is all the more important this year because of a change in formats. The NCAA women's tournament is going back to the format of top-16 seeds hosting, which it last used in 2002. The only exceptions will be if one of the top 16 seeds has a scheduling conflict with its facility.
After the top four seeds, the rest of the top 20, in alphabetical order, is: Arizona State, Baylor, California, Duke, Florida State, George Washington, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Stanford, Texas A&M and Washington.