Chris Dawson, the Chair of the Division I Women's Basketball Championship Sports Committee, answered some questions following the Monday night selection show based on their final results as a committee.
With the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, they watched over 1,200 games over the course of the year. With watching all those games also comes the analysis of teams including their team data, key injuries for teams, RPI rankings, strength of schedule, what every knowledge the committee felt would help prepare them for deciding the 64 teams who would play in the tournament.
Dawson broke down questions based on how herself and the rest of the committee reached their final decisions. In order to create entertaining games, the committee decided the teams with three steps: selection of the teams, ranking the teams in real order of 1-64 and bracketing teams into regions. Dawson reiterated the difficulty this is every year of deciding which teams across the nation will, in fact, get in.
There was a question asked in regards to keeping Kentucky in the Lexington region, essential allowing Kentucky to be playing in their backyard. Dawson gave an in-depth of the explanation of the placing for Kentucky.
Dawson answered with, "We faced some unique challenges, because we had multiple teams from multiple conferences in the top four lines. We have a seeding principle that says that when you have teams from the same conference in the top four lines, you have to separate them into each region.
"And so the result of some of that separation was one of the factors that caused Connecticut to -- Connecticut."
She continued, "That caused Kentucky to end up in the Lexington regional. We also have a principle that says for regional competition; a team can't play at a site where they have played more than two games; any arena, a specific arena, where they haven't played more than two games, not including their conference postseason tournament.
"And Kentucky played fewer than three regular-season games at Rupp Arena. Thus, when they bid and secured the bid, the way the bracket worked out, Kentucky ended up at Lexington."
The placement doesn't stop there, as the committee feels due to the placement of the regions; there will be a lot of fans and support in the area. The support will be noticeable in all four regions in the tournament.
Having an answer such as this, eyebrows were raised to see Connecticut and the University of South Florida in the same bracket even though they are in the same conference. Dawson clarified, "One of the bracketing principles is that teams from the same conference should not meet until the regional Final, and that would be the case if South Florida and UCONN both advance. I think having those two in the same region was largely a function of the need to separate other conference teams."
The ultimate decision came down to the American Conference only having two teams in the tournament, whereas other conferences had more to split up, such as the Pac-12 with four teams in.
There were two teams who slightly edged out another when it came to the overall rankings. Over the course of the year, communication has been back and forth over who the true #2 seed and #3 seed were.
The committee decided South Carolina was the overall #2 seed because they had more wins over top 25 teams, as well as wins over top 100 teams. In the Pac-12, Arizona State got the #2 rank in their region in the Sioux Falls over #3 UCLA in Bridgeport due to them having a better performance over the year and sharing the regular season title with Oregon State.
Coming into the night, Charlie Creme had St. Bonaventure as a bubble team. One team, they were able to surpass in order to get into the tournament was St. Louis. The question was asked on what caused the edge out to go in favor of St. Bonaventure.
Dawson answered, "We definitely had St. Louis on the board as we started our discussions. I mean, this was an interesting year because we had 11 conference regular season champions that did not get their conference AQ because they faltered at some point in their conference tournament, and St. Louis was one of those teams."
It was not just St. Louis that did not make the cut. Another team addressed was Florida Gulf Coast University. FGCU was one of 14 teams being deliberated on to make the final cut for the last four in. It was taken into account an injury that sidelined their top player at the beginning of the year, very good regular season and having a win over a top 25 team by beating George Washington.
"And they also had other good things to recommend them. Again, in their case, when compared with the group at the end -- so at the very end, we had 14 teams we were looking at for the last four spots. Florida Gulf Coast was one of those teams. Ultimately, other teams emerged ahead of them," Dawson concluded on declining to put FGCU in the final field of 64.
Every year it is hard to know what teams will make the final bid for the tournament. Everyone wants to dance, yet in such a big field, only 64 teams are going to make the count.
What Dawson also gave insight to, for smaller teams, particularly the mid-majors, flirting with an at-large bid is a difficult thing to be received. What is needed for them is to take care of business and win their conference tournament.
While the body of work might have been great all year long, not completing the mission will get them edged out as a bubble team. It was not a few teams who missed out, but 11 who fell to March Madness and being upset in the conference tournament.
It is to be noted as well, for the first time since 1988 there will be no Duke, North Carolina or NC State in the tournament. While there was turmoil during the year, Tennessee made a late run in the SEC, where they did not win, yet got into the tournament with the university's lowest seed at a number seven.