Welcome back to a special edition of “The Triple Double,” and this edition is going to get spicy.
On Monday night, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Committee revealed their final Top 16 ranking, staying fairly consistent with what they had at the first and second rankings.
This final ranking revealed the potential regional assignments for the Top 16 if the season were to end today. Here are the rankings in both order and regional assignments:
Connecticut (#1 seed - Albany); Mississippi State (#1 seed - Kansas City); Louisville (#1 seed - Lexington); Notre Dame (#1 seed - Spokane); Baylor; Oregon; South Carolina; Texas; Florida State; UCLA; Missouri; Tennessee; Ohio State; Maryland; Georgia; Stanford
Albany: UConn, South Carolina, Florida State, Stanford
Kansas City: Mississippi State, Texas, UCLA, Maryland
Lexington: Louisville, Baylor, Tennessee, Ohio State
Spokane: Notre Dame, Oregon, Missouri, Georgia
Now here, we’re going to cover what they did right, and where they went wrong, in the normal “Triple Double” three points fashion.
1) THE NUMBER ONE SEEDS ARE RIGHT
In most years, we would normally be arguing that one of the number one seeds were not deserving, that the committee needs to shake things up. I think 2018 is the year where we cannot make that argument.
First, let’s talk about UConn. Their resume speaks for itself: 112 straight regular season wins, a perfect 26-0 record, and currently are in the midst of their 25th straight 20-win season. While they have some chinks in their armor, Geno Auriemma has kept this team afloat as he usually does, as they are currently the top scoring team in the nation AGAIN (90.6 points per game).
Mississippi State, the last team to beat UConn, just won the outright SEC regular season championship, and with UConn is the only undefeated team left in D-I. Louisville, while they are the no. 4 team in the AP Top 25, have only lost to one of the top 10 seeds, and hasn’t fallen below the fifth spot since November 13 (they were ranked ninth in the November 2 preseason poll). And Notre Dame has survived FOUR ACL injuries this season, and somehow has maintained a 25-2 record and a top 5 AP ranking since week four.
Say what you want about Baylor and how they haven’t lost since November 18, and how their one loss was to then eighth-ranked UCLA. And while Baylor has been the no. 3 seed since the January 22 poll, UCLA has also fluctuated through the polls all season, falling as low as no. 14 (January 8). That one loss has been costly, and regardless of their 25-game winning streak, it wasn’t enough for the committee to justify giving them a top spot.
2) NO LOVE FOR GREEN BAY...AGAIN
So you’re going to tell me that Georgia, who didn’t enter the AP Top 25 until the middle of January, is more worthy of a top 16 tournament ranking ahead of Green Bay, who entered the poll on December 4?
To quote the old 90’s TV show “In Living Color, “Homey don’t play that.”
Yes, you can take the Baylor argument from above and apply it to Green Bay as well. Their Dec. 30 loss to Northern Kentucky was painful, and it cost them their spot in the polls for a week. But since their return on Jan. 8, they have gone 13-1, outscoring their opponents by an average of 24.4 points in those games.
They have also, as of press time, clinched their 20th straight Horizon League regular season championship. Meanwhile, Georgia is 10-4 in the SEC, and are the third-best team in their conference. And to note, Georgia has lost four of their five games in the conference; Green Bay has only lost twice and has a better record (24-3 to Georgia’s 22-5).
The whole argument that mid-majors don’t face the same level of competition is an unfair one to make, and Green Bay’s exclusion is a perfect example of that unfairness. The Phoenix deserve their shine, and putting Georgia over Green Bay in the final 16 is absurd.
3) THE REGIONAL PARADOX
The committee mentioned that outside the top 4, the remaining 12 spots were difficult to place, and the final four were harder as their resumes were reasonably similar.
And as an end result, three of those final four teams are currently in a position where they may have to travel cross country. Georgia (Spokane), Maryland (Kansas City) and Stanford (Albany) are all at a serious disadvantage if the rankings end up staying as is.
To give an idea of the travel each team is dealing with, we’ll list the mileage and compare it to the length of basketball courts:
Athens, GA (Georgia) to Spokane: 2,417 miles or 135,352 basketball courts
College Park, MD (Maryland) to Kansas City, MO: 1,054 miles or 59,024 basketball courts
Stanford, CA (Stanford) to Albany, NY: 2,968 miles or 166,208 basketball courts
The skeptic fan would probably say “well, if those teams had done a better job of separating themselves from the pack, they wouldn’t be in that position.” And to the skeptic, I would see their point and counter with South Carolina, last season’s national champions.
Last year, they traveled from Columbia, SC to Seattle, WA for the subregionals, then to Stockton, CA for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, then to Dallas, TX for the national championship.
Every year, there are a handful of teams that end up having to make that dreadful cross-country trek, which not only leaves the team roadworn, but it affects schools as a whole. Fans end up having to pay oodles of money if they want to root for their team (especially because final seedings aren’t usually determined until the end of the season, so planning ahead is difficult), and athletic departments have to rustle up funds for their marching bands, cheerleaders and other staff to travel. If you’re a mid-major team, the struggle gets real in this area.
At some point, there needs to be a better system where teams won’t have to rack up so much mileage before they get to the Sweet 16.