Women’s basketball bracketology: Without a top 3 seed, the Big Ten still runs the show

The Big Ten is the deepest league in the country

It’s hard to send nine teams to the NCAA Tournament, let alone to do it without producing a 1, 2, or 3 seed. But that’s exactly what the Big Ten is projected to do this season, with Indiana and Northwestern leading the way and Minnesota just sneaking into the field.

The abundance of bids made for some tricky bracket gymnastics in order to avoid first- or second-round matchups, and for the most part, we got there. Minnesota and Ohio State would be on track to meet in a potential Sweet 16 game, but this would be allowed under bracket rules as they are only scheduled to play once in the regular season.

Northwestern fans will be happy to see that the Wildcats are a projected host this week. Perhaps I”m a little more bullish on the Wildcats than most, but it’s hard to argue with their resume: six quadrant 1 wins, their only two losses to RPI top-13 teams, and a 5-0 road record.

Elsewhere, this week saw a shakeup on the 1 seed line. UConn’s loss to Baylor knocked UConn off the 1 line and brought the Bears up in their place. Those spots, however, are anything but secure. UConn could just as easily move back up with games upcoming against Oregon and South Carolina…or down if the Huskies can’t get it done. If the Bears’ recent performance in the Big 12 is any indication — their last three wins have come by an average of 40 points — then the Bears should stay where they are. Then again, a weak non-conference schedule (115th) makes their margin for error slim.

Oregon is also a 1 seed this week, which any logical fan would have expected to come sooner or later. Until their win over Stanford on Jan. 16, the Ducks had not defeated a team in the top 40 of the RPI. Having them as a 2 seed last time was as much a product of their clear talent as it was their resume. Defeating Stanford by 32 was more than enough to legitimize a team we already knew was good. The committee not only takes results into account, but considers how a team looks in the process. Oregon checked all the boxes of a bona fide 1 seed.

Full bracket:

Screenshot.

Bracket math:

Bids by conference:

Big Ten: 9
SEC: 7
ACC: 6
Pac-12: 6
Big 12: 5
MVC: 4*
Big East: 2

*At 5-0 in conference, Bradley currently holds the automatic bid out of the Missouri Valley. If that changes, expect the MVC’s bid ceiling to be three.

Procedural bumps:

FGCU: 7 to 8
West Virginia: 7 to 8
Purdue 8 to 7
Ohio State 8 to 7
Nebraska 9 to 10
Texas 10 to 9

Last Four In:

Northern Iowa
Arkansas
Minnesota
Tennessee

First Four Out:

Marquette
Seton Hall
Michigan
Miami

Next Four Out:

St. John’s
Old Dominion
Michigan State
Wake Forest

Next update: End of January

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