Trio of SEC teams help shake up bracketology's S-curve

Holly Warlick's Lady Vols, who have lost three consecutive games for the first time since 1986, join Georgia and Texas A&M as some of the toughest teams to assess in bracketology. Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire

The top of this week's bracket looks exactly like last week's edition. UConn, Notre Dame, Louisville and Baylor remain No. 1 seeds, and Mississippi State, NC State, Oregon and Stanford hold tight as No. 2 seeds.

The top 11 teams have kept winning.

But things get messy after that, due largely to a Sunday that yielded a string of stunning results. Ten of the teams that were ranked between 12 and 27 on last week's S-curve lost this week.

Kentucky's win at Tennessee on Thursday was surprising, but at that point, both teams had become legitimate contenders for a top-16 seed. The jaw-droppers mostly came Sunday.

Those same Wildcats lost at home to an Ole Miss team that hadn't won an SEC game in a year. Missouri blew a 10-point lead in less than three minutes to lose to Florida, which has a sub-200 RPI. Florida State couldn't get to 50 points in losing to Clemson for the first time in 19 meetings. The Lady Vols were up 17 in the first half to a Georgia team that has struggled offensively all season, then lost for the second time in three days.

Needless to say, these games muddied the waters even more for the teams vying for the last few spots in the top 16 -- and left plenty of questions about some teams going forward.

It's worth noting Kentucky was without top scorer Maci Morris, who was out with an illness, and there are questions about whether point guard Taylor Murray was fully healthy after she bruised a knee against Tennessee. So the Wildcats might get a pass, despite blowing a fourth-quarter lead to an Ole Miss team that hadn't beaten a ranked team on the road since 2011.

But for some of the other upset victims on Sunday, and others with conflicting résumés, determining tournament worthiness or proper placement in the field is more complicated.

Tennessee: The Lady Vols are once again a difficult team to slot in the S-curve. Trying to properly assess Tennessee has become an annual headache. With the Lady Vols losing their third straight game for the first time since 1986, it's even harder this year. Yet the best Tennessee wins -- Texas, Auburn and Clemson -- look even better today than they did when they happened. The loss to Stanford was close, and even that looks more impressive with each passing day. It's the inconsistency, both in the results and from play to play, that makes the Lady Vols so maddening. Tennessee is a No. 6 seed this week, down from No. 4 in the Jan. 8 bracket.

Georgia: Tennessee's most recent conqueror is also a tough team to evaluate. The Lady Dogs entered the season with high expectations, but then struggled in nonconference play, losing to every decent team they played and failing to score 70 points against any of them. The Lady Dogs' nonconference-strength-of-schedule ranking was an embarrassing 259, leaving Georgia with an RPI unbecoming of an NCAA tournament team (87). However, after beating the Lady Vols with a brilliant second half and nearly upsetting Mississippi State on Thursday, the Lady Dogs currently look to be worthy of an at-large selection. So although the numbers historically would leave Georgia out, the Lady Dogs are in. This week, they're a No. 10 seed.

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers are out of the field this week. That might surprise people, as Minnesota was still ranking in the Top 25 heading into the week. The Gophers were expected to compete for a Big Ten championship. Despite a 12-3 record, Minnesota has done very little. The Gophers' only significant win is a home victory over Syracuse. Their nonconference schedule was shockingly poor (276 strength-of-schedule ranking), with Boston College as the only other top-100 opponent. The Gophers' RPI of 83 ranks better than that of Georgia, but the Lady Dogs are trending in the right direction. Minnesota is 1-3 in the Big Ten, with two of those losses coming by double digits.

Texas A&M: Texas A&M is a mixed bag and perhaps the toughest team to evaluate of them all. The Aggies have a decent win over USC and a very good one over Oregon State. They have a loss to Lamar, but the Aggies played that game without star point guard Chennedy Carter. They have had to deal with a season-ending injury to second-leading scorer Aaliyah Wilson. Their two SEC wins came against two of the worst teams in the league (Alabama and Vanderbilt), and their two losses were winnable games that got away (South Carolina and LSU). The Aggies look like an NCAA tournament team -- although they are no lock -- and are a No. 8 seed this week. The next two weeks, with games against Georgia, Auburn and Kentucky, could clear up the A&M picture.