Here’s what the women’s NCAA tournament selection committee got right and wrong
The selection committee officially unveiled the bracket for the NCAA women’s tournament on Sunday night.
South Carolina was an easy choice for the No. 1 overall seed, but there were plenty of errors and controversial decisions made the rest of the way down the bracket.
Here’s a look at what the committee got right, and what it got wrong:
What the committee got wrong: Stanford ahead Iowa for the last No. 1 seed
There were always going to be a few deserving teams left out of a top seed in the tournament. In the case of the Seattle 4 region, however, the committee has Iowa and Stanford flipped.
Iowa should have received the fourth and final No. 1 seed in the tournament. Instead, it went to Stanford.
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Sure, the Cardinal put together a solid season. They picked up wins against Gonzaga, Tennessee and Creighton, and fell to only top-ranked South Carolina by five, before finishing second in the Pac-12 regular season. They finished fourth in the NCAA’s NET ranking, two spots ahead of the Hawkeyes, and had 15 wins over the NET top 50.
But at the end of the season, Stanford struggled. The Cardinal lost two of their last three games, first to Utah to close the regular season and then in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament to UCLA.
Iowa, on the other hand, finished about as strong as it possibly could have. At 26-6, the Hawkeyes won their final four games of the season, including a historic 105-72 blowout over Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament championship game, which marked their second straight. Player of the Year candidate Caitlin Clark had her 10th career triple-double in that game.
Sure, Iowa and Stanford had similar regular seasons. Both are undoubtedly top-eight teams in the country. But Iowa is trending up entering the NCAA tournament, while Stanford isn’t. The Hawkeyes’ dominant run in the Big Ten tournament should have been enough to give them the edge to claim the final No. 1 seed.
What the committee got right: Virginia Tech getting a No. 1 seed
Like Iowa, Virginia Tech absolutely finished the season the right way.
The committee rewarded the Hokies for it.
Virginia Tech is entering the tournament on an 11-game win streak. The Hokies flew through the conference tournament and then beat Louisville in the championship game to win the program’s first title. Star Elizabeth Kitley won her second straight ACC Player of the Year award after averaging a double-double with 18.6 points and 10.5 rebounds. Senior guard Georgia Amoore averaged 21.7 points during the ACC tournament.
The Hokies also have wins over Nebraska, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri under their belt, and finished inside the NET top 10.
Sure, Virginia Tech has never made it farther than the Sweet 16. The last time it even reached that round was more than 20 years ago. But the Hokies are playing as good as anybody else in the country right now. They deserved to get a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
What the committee got wrong: Oregon missing the tournament
Oregon did not look good in recent weeks. That doesn’t mean the Ducks should have missed the tournament entirely.
Oregon narrowly missed an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament Sunday night. The Ducks went 17-14 this season, which put them in eighth in the Pac-12 standings. They lost seven straight and 10 of 12 games during the final stretch of conference play, though they saved it with a pair of blowout wins over Arizona and Arizona State to end the regular season. Stanford knocked Oregon out of the Pac-12 tournament in the quarterfinals, and the Ducks never really had a statement win all season. At best, that came against then-No. 17 Arkansas in December, but that feels like a stretch.
Yet Oregon finished with a NET ranking of 19. Creighton, which finished just ahead of Oregon in the NET rankings, earned a No. 6 seed. Louisville, at No. 20 in the NET, was given a No. 5 seed. Even Purdue and Miami, who finished Nos. 49 and 50 in the NET, respectively, earned tournament bids, though the Boilermakers snuck into a First Four game.
Almost all of Oregon’s losses were very tight. Every game during the Ducks’ seven-game losing skid was decided by 10 points or fewer, and only one of their 14 losses was a blowout. Two of those losses were decided by a single possession.
The committee didn’t need to give Oregon a good seed. The Ducks didn’t deserve that at all. But they still should have been given the chance in the tournament.
What the committee got right: Tennessee getting to host as a No. 4 seed
Sure, Tennessee struggled this season. The Lady Vols beat just one ranked team all season, and that came only after they rallied out of a 17-point hole to beat LSU in the SEC tournament semifinals. They lost 11 times, and were largely disappointing despite being ranked No. 5 in the preseason.
But Tennessee’s schedule was ridiculously tough, and it looks like the committee rewarded the Lady Vols for it in giving them a No. 4 seed and the ability to host in the opening rounds of the tournament.
Tennessee opened the season against Ohio State, and then played non-conference games against Indiana, Rutgers, UCLA, Gonzaga, Colorado, Virginia Tech and Stanford all before SEC play began. The Lady Vols then hosted UConn in the middle of their conference schedule, too. While they won only twice against that group of Power 6 schools, Tennessee has plenty of experience playing against the best in the sport. If that’s ever going to come in handy, it’s now in the NCAA tournament.
And, with both projected first-round WNBA Draft picks Rickea Jackson and Jordan Horston in the midst of great seasons, the Lady Vols are a team that can make a substantial run. They aren’t going to be surprised by anybody because they’ve already played against the best.