The NCAA women's basketball selection committee has made it clear that its in-season reveals of the top 16 teams have no direct connection to what the final tournament bracket looks like on Selection Sunday.
But Thursday's reveal -- and the subsequent one on Feb. 23 -- give us some insight into how the committee members are thinking and which metrics they most value in making final decisions on seeding and tournament inclusion.
The raw NET ranking -- a combination of a team's record, strength of opponents and offensive and defensive efficiency metrics -- appeared to play a big role in which teams were included Thursday in the top 16.
Utah, Iowa and Duke -- the sixth, seventh and eighth overall teams Thursday, and all No. 2 seeds -- were each placed within one spot of their NET ranking. Texas, 10th in the NET, was a No. 3 seed despite tying for the most losses of any team in the top 16.
It also might be why UConn, the NET's No. 2 team, was the final No. 1 seed (joining South Carolina, Indiana and Stanford on the top line). The Huskies are coming off their first two-game losing streak in 30 years and have lost four games this season.
Half of their nation-leading eight top-25 NET wins were when Azzi Fudd was playing. Her latest injury has cost Fudd the past eight games and counting.
It makes evaluating UConn tough, but it was surprising the Huskies were still on the top line. I was leaning toward elevating LSU as the final No. 1 seed prior to the reveal, but the Tigers' schedule remains a sticking point. Their performance against South Carolina on Sunday might be something that could change the committee's mind.
Ohio State is another team struggling of late, and it seemed to hurt the Buckeyes more than UConn. Just 2½ weeks ago, Ohio State was undefeated and a No. 1 seed. And to be fair, the Buckeyes' four losses in five subsequent games is a more substantial stretch than what the Huskies have endured. But the Buckeyes fell all the way to No. 16. Not surprisingly, their NET ranking, which never cracked the top 10 even when they were unbeaten, is No. 15.
Ohio State -- one of five Big Ten teams in the top 16 -- still has Indiana, Michigan and Maryland on the schedule, but Thursday's placement tells us that without two wins in those games and a nice run in the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes will probably not be a top-16 team come Selection Sunday.
Villanova made the top 16 seemingly based off its No. 11 true NET ranking. The Wildcats are just 1-4 against the NET top 25, the lowest win total in that category of any team that made Thursday's list.
As a means of comparison, Florida State, which was a No. 4 seed in Tuesday's Bracketology but didn't make the NCAA's top 16, is 3-2 against the top 25, has a comparable overall record and schedule strength to Villanova, more top-100 wins and the same number of top-50 wins.
The selection process is not a one-to-one team evaluation, but these are interesting comparisons to make and analyze. This also indicates that if the Wildcats can beat everyone left on their schedule, or only suffer a loss or losses to UConn the rest of the way, there's a good chance first- and second-round games will be played on the main line.