Baylor coach Nicki Collen said there's reason enough for the Bears to go full-throttle vs. Texas in Sunday's Big 12 championship game (2 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App): A tournament title is on the line. While it would the 12th for Baylor, it would be the first for Collen, in her inaugural season with the Bears.
"[Sunday] is about cutting down another net," Collen said Saturday after Baylor's 91-76 semifinal victory over Oklahoma at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri. "I don't know if I believe any of it, but we could potentially be playing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, too."
According to ESPN Bracketologist Charlie Creme, that's exactly what Baylor will be doing. After the Bears avenged two regular-season losses to the Sooners, Creme moved Baylor into the fourth and final No. 1 seed, replacing Louisville on the top line. Will Baylor actually end up there? That's one of the questions that will be answered in the NCAA women's selection show, which starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The women have had their selection show on Mondays since 2006, but moved back to Sunday this season to account for the tournament expanding to 68 teams with the First Four. And while certain things have been locked in for quite a while with no change -- such as South Carolina, NC State and defending national champion Stanford as No. 1 seeds -- other things have fluctuated. Louisville was the fourth No. 1 seed in the selection committee's last reveal on Feb. 28, but the Cardinals' ACC quarterfinal loss to Miami left the door open for Baylor.
The Bears appear to be charging through that; they're on a 12-game winning streak and started Big 12 tournament play Friday with a 23-0 first quarter against Oklahoma State.
A loss to Texas would change things, but Baylor is 27-1 vs. Texas since 2011; the Longhorns' lone win in that stretch was in 2017. Also, Texas' only Big 12 tournament title came in 2003.
As we wait to see if the Longhorns can end that drought and rob Baylor of a No. 1 seed, what are some of the other big questions we're pondering heading into Selection Sunday?
How will things shake out for the rest of the Big 12?
Per Creme, the Big 12 is projected to get six of its 10 teams into the field, including Kansas, which hasn't played in the NCAA tournament since 2013. But four teams are projected among the top-16 seeds.
Semifinal losses Saturday aren't likely to impact seeding for projected 2-seed Iowa State and projected 4-seed Oklahoma. The Sooners have lost twice since the last reveal, though, so their top-16 status might be a little more tenuous. But considering their overall body of work includes two wins over Baylor, they have a pretty strong case to host the early rounds.
As for Texas, the Longhorns -- who like Baylor reached the Elite Eight last season -- seem to have locked up a No. 2 seed by making the Big 12 final.
Will UConn be placed in the Bridgeport Region?
It looks that way, as the Huskies moved into a No. 2 seed after winning the Big East tournament last Monday. Women's basketball fans and NC State fans have already voiced displeasure that the Wolfpack -- the region's projected top seed -- might have to play UConn in the Huskies' backyard. Nice reward for being a No. 1 seed, right?
The bracket appears to be shaping up with the Huskies getting this advantage yet again; they were in Bridgeport or Albany, New York, from 2015 to 2019. With Paige Bueckers back on court after being sidelined much of the season with a knee injury, the timing seems to be good for UConn.
How much will strong finishes impact teams such as Iowa and Kentucky?
When the Hawkeyes fell to Maryland on Feb. 14, their fourth loss in as many tries against a ranked team, they were 16-7 and seemed out of the mix to host the early rounds. They've won seven in a row since, earning them the Big Ten tournament title and elevating them into the top 16. Creme now projects them as a No. 3 seed.
Kentucky was in worse shape on Feb. 14; at 10-11 overall and 3-8 in the SEC, the Wildcats weren't even in the NCAA tournament field. But they had just defeated Alabama on Feb. 13 to start what would turn out to be a 10-game winning streak that brought Kentucky its first SEC tournament title since 1982.
The Wildcats finished their conference tournament looking like a top-16 seed, but their closing run wasn't quite enough to elevate them that high. Creme has Kentucky as one of three SEC teams as a No. 7 seed, along with Georgia and Florida. And if seeds hold, all three could scare the No. 2 seeds in their regions in the second round.
How much will the committee consider injuries?
This is supposed to be something that has always given weight -- but how much is always dependent on the views of each committee. Does a bubble team such as 23-8 Villanova, which reached the Big East tournament final, get some leeway because of the six games star Maddy Siegrist missed due to injury in November and December?
How about Missouri State, which lost senior center Jasmine Franklin to a torn ACL in late December, but finished second in the Missouri Valley? Missouri State and regular-season champ Southern Illinois lost in the MVC semifinals Saturday, so Northern Iowa and Illinois State will play for the title and NCAA automatic bid Sunday.
Will the SEC get nine teams in the field?
That's what Creme is predicting, and it will come down to whether both Arkansas and Missouri make it. They each finished 7-9 in league play, with the Razorbacks 18-13 overall and the Tigers 18-12. They met in the SEC tournament with Arkansas winning in overtime, and the Razorbacks also won their regular-season meeting.
But Missouri has victories over No. 1 South Carolina and Florida, which was ranked No. 15 at the time. Will the Tigers get the nod?
Some women's basketball observers don't like when the committee gives this many bids to a Power 5 conference, especially as it concerns two teams with losing league records. Yet it's the strength of a league like the SEC that makes for a compelling argument for both Arkansas and Missouri.