NCAA selection committee finds perfect balance in final reveal

The NCAA's top 16 reveal Monday held no surprises but produced a more balanced bracket than last month's reveal. No. 1 overall seed Baylor remains in the Greensboro Regional, while Louisville -- not Notre Dame -- is in Chicago. AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

When the NCAA women's basketball selection committee began revealing its midseason rankings in 2015, everybody was looking for fairness and consistency.

From this season's first reveal on Feb. 11 to Monday's unveiling of the NCAA's top 16 seeds, the committee accomplished exactly that. The principles and procedures for seeding and bracketing were uniformly applied -- that wasn't always the case in past years -- and Monday's list of the top 16 teams and the regions in which they were placed was fair and resulted in a more balanced bracket than we saw three weeks ago.

The happy medium between true S-curve placement and geographical considerations was found. That means, of course, that Monday's reveal held no big surprises.

Here are the biggest talking points.

Louisville to Chicago

This has been one of the most discussed topics this season since both Louisville and Notre Dame can bus to Wintrust Arena and the Chicago Regional. The popular notion was that the Irish would go to Chicago because their large alumni base there would boost attendance. However, since neither school has to get on a plane to get there, the NCAA's rules pertaining to S-curve and geography dictate that the highest team left on the overall list is placed into its nearest geographical region, as long as it doesn't disrupt other bracketing principles.

This committee stuck to that. Louisville, as the second overall team on the board, got placed in the Windy City, and the Irish, at No. 3 overall, will go to Portland.

Albany is actually closer to South Bend than Portland, and Notre Dame would have been placed before UConn, the No. 4 overall team on the committee's board. Instead of sending the Huskies to Portland, however, the committee seems to be protecting the solid attendance that UConn provides in Albany. That is not a surprise but interesting to note.

Five ACC teams in the top 16

Syracuse probably had stronger credentials for the first reveal on Feb. 11. The Orange weren't included then, but they're the No. 15 overall team Monday. That means the ACC has five teams hosting.

That forced Notre Dame and Syracuse to be placed in the same region, with a potential Sweet 16 meeting looming. The committee prefers to avoid conference foes meeting earlier than the Elite Eight (though that seems to have softened in recent years), but that is impossible with five teams from the same conference in the top 16.

The ACC is the top RPI-rated conference, and that is reflected here. Expect eight ACC teams to make the NCAA tournament field when Selection Monday rolls around in two weeks.

The fight for the final No. 2 seed

Iowa (No. 8 overall), NC State (No. 9) and Maryland (No. 10) all had comparable résumés. The Hawkeyes got the committee's nod Monday as the final No. 2 seed and were placed in the Greensboro Regional with Baylor.

The number of data points to consider is what makes this compelling. NC State has the best RPI of the group but is 4-4 in its past eight games. Iowa has a win over Maryland, but the Terps won the Big Ten regular-season title, and the Hawkeyes were second. Iowa has the most losses of the group but played the best schedule.

That's how similar their profiles are and how difficult a decision the committee faced.

Ultimately, the decision doesn't impact the competitive layout of the bracket, but it has a ripple effect on where other teams get sent. For instance, had NC State been the No. 2 seed, it would have gone to Greensboro, but Iowa likely would have been placed in Chicago, which would have moved Maryland to Portland. It's also possible that Iowa could have ended up in Portland had the Hawkeyes been No. 10 overall instead of No. 8.

Gamecocks headed west

In the 2016 and 2017 NCAA tournaments, South Carolina wasn't happy about being sent far from the fan base for the regionals (Sioux Falls and Stockton). Last season, the Gamecocks weren't thrilled about being placed in Albany alongside UConn. This time around, South Carolina is back out west, as the No. 3 seed in the Portland Regional -- at least for now. It's not an ideal situation for South Carolina fans, but it's the right move for bracket balance.

The Gamecocks are No. 12 on this week's S-curve. Interestingly, if they were one spot lower, they likely would have been placed closer to home.

It's also worth noting that South Carolina will start on the road. Because Colonial Life Arena is hosting men's NCAA tournament games, the Gamecocks will host early round games in Charlotte.