Women’s basketball Bracket Watch: Stanford or Texas for the fourth NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed? – The Athletic

By Mark SchindlerMar 12, 2024Supported By

(Editor’s note: This is part of the Bracket Central Series, an inside look at the run-up to the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments, along with analysis and picks during the tournaments.)

We are officially less than a week away from Selection Sunday. Let me rephrase that; we are five days away from going from Bracket Watch to actually watching the bracket being built. With this being my first foray into bracket-building and seeding, it means something a bit different to me this year.

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In a way, I’ve been building up my own resume and body of work every week, working to tweak what I’m doing, improve my process, and work to be more in line with how the committee seems to be viewing things. We’ve got a wealth of great coverage from The Athletic women’s basketball staff on the way, including ramping up to daily Bracket Watch articles through Sunday.

If this is your first edition, welcome! This is a great time to get in, as the cement is starting to set at the top although the bottom of the bracket is still liquid. Conference tournaments are taking place all week, so be on the lookout for daily games if you’re looking for a hoops fix during your lunch breaks.

The Big 12 championship can still shake up some things. The Summit, Horizon and WCC are each in their final stages of conference tournaments and can have major implications on potential at-large bids. March is upon us!

First Four Columbia 16 Sacred Heart 16 UT Martin Corvallis 11 Texas A&M 11 Miami Los Angeles 16 Holy Cross 16 Presbyterian Baton Rouge 11 Arizona 11 Columbia Albany 1 Columbia 1 South Carolina 16 Sacred Heart UT Martin Columbia 8 Michigan State 9 Kansas Boulder 4 Colorado 13 Fairfield Boulder 5 Kansas State 12 FGCU Corvallis 3 Oregon State 14 Stony Brook Corvallis 6 West Virginia 11 Texas A&M Miami Columbus 2 Ohio State 15 Temple Columbus 7 Duke 10 Auburn Portland 2 Los Angeles 1 USC 16 Holy Cross Presbyterian Los Angeles 8 Princeton 9 Maryland Bloomington 4 Indiana 13 South Dakota State Bloomington 5 Oklahoma 12 Toledo South Bend 3 Notre Dame 14 Chattanooga South Bend 6 Baylor 11 Arizona Columbia Baton Rouge 2 LSU 15 Maine Baton Rouge 7 Creighton 10 Michigan Albany 3 Iowa City 1 Iowa 16 Hawaii Iowa City 8 Tennessee 9 North Carolina Blacksburg 4 Virginia Tech 13 Eastern Washington Blacksburg 5 Utah 12 Richmond Storrs 3 UConn 14 Cleveland State Storrs 6 Louisville 11 Middle Tennessee Los Angeles 2 UCLA 15 Norfolk State Los Angeles 7 Iowa State 10 UNLV Portland 4 Palo Alto 1 Stanford 16 Lamar Palo Alto 8 Nebraska 9 Alabama Spokane 4 Gonzaga 13 Marshall Spokane 5 Syracuse 12 Drake Raleigh 3 NC State 14 Jackson State Raleigh 6 Ole Miss 11 Marquette Austin 2 Texas 15 Cal Baptist Austin 7 Florida State 10 Vanderbilt

Last four in First four out Next four out Last four byes
Texas A&M Mississippi State Villanova Michigan
Arizona Green Bay George Mason Vanderbilt
Columbia Washington State VCU Auburn
Miami Penn State Washington Marquette

Multi-bid conferences

Conference Bids
ACC 9
SEC 8
Big Ten 7
Big 12 7
Pac-12 7
Big East 3
Ivy 2

Are the No. 1 seeds locked?

South Carolina was a guaranteed lock to be the No. 1 overall seed, even before the SEC tournament. Iowa secured its bid as a top seed with the combination of Ohio State’s early loss in the Big Ten tournament and winning out the conference tournament title. USC is a lock for a No. 1 seed as well after beating Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.

In the selection committee’s last Top 16 reveal late last month, Stanford had earned the No. 3 overall seed. Since then, the Cardinal have beaten Oregon State twice (the Beavers were 12th in that reveal) and lost to USC (which was eighth in that reveal). An additional factor is Ohio State’s loss by a significant margin in its first matchup in the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes are out of the picture for a top seed. UCLA’s loss to USC — the Bruins’ second loss to the Trojans — ensured that USC would be in over its L.A. rival. Virginia Tech was knocking on the door for a No. 1 seed — it was ranked fifth in the reveal — but with an injury to Elizabeth Kitley, its fortunes seemed to change; the Hokies have gone1-3 since the Top 16 reveal.

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Based on the committee’s reveals, Stanford looks like a lock for a No. 1 seed, but Texas is making things interesting.

The Longhorns were ranked sixth by the selection committee in that final reveal, so do their wins and a possible Big 12 tournament championship on Tuesday elevate them to the No. 1 seed? It’s close, but I still lean toward Stanford getting on the top line. The Longhorns are 11-4 in games against the NET top 50 and The Cardinal are 13-5 in games of the same caliber. Texas is 5-4 against the NET top 25 while Stanford is 7-4. The NET should not and will not be the differentiator, but the point remains that the Cardinal have played and won more games against opponents in the top tier of Division I competition. So much of separating at the top is based on quality wins, and even with Texas’ potential win against Iowa State in the Big 12 championship, I see this going to Stanford.

The Pac-12 was the best regular-season conference in college basketball this season, and it seems highly likely the Cardinal will be rewarded for that.

Who’s on the hosting bubble?

The Top 16 is locked in, barring an unexpected Gonzaga loss in the WCC tourney. Even if Texas loses the Big 12 tournament title, it’s still going to host. With so many conference tournament games impacting the top four seed lines, where do Notre Dame and Colorado stand?

Does Notre Dame’s late season push move it a No. 2 seed? The Irish undoubtedly earned themselves a host spot in the NCAA Tournament after winning the ACC tournament, their first under coach Niele Ivey. Notre Dame has strong nonconference wins against UConn and Tennessee. The Irish racked up wins in the ACC without accruing any bad losses. When factoring in those top wins and overall strength of schedule relative to some of the current projected No. 2 seeds, Notre Dame has a legitimate case. How the committee evaluates it will be interesting.

Can Colorado still crack the Top 16 and host the first two rounds? I’m starting to lean toward yes.

Oklahoma was the last team in the latest Top 16 reveal, with Colorado ranked No. 13. The Buffaloes beat Washington, lost to Washington State, and then lost in double overtime to Oregon State in Pac-12 tournament’s second round. Meanwhile, Oklahoma lost to Kansas and Iowa State while picking up a win over TCU. Considering Kansas State was outside the last reveal entirely, the biggest question will be whether its win over West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament was enough to push the Wildcats into that spot. Colorado’s skid late in the season hurt, but all of the Buffaloes’ losses were close and against good competition, and Colorado pushed an expected hosting team to the brink in the conference tourney.Considering how other teams in the mix for hosting fared in conference tournament action, Colorado is still in play.

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Is the Horizon a two-bid league?

Add the Horizon League championship to your calendar; it tips off at noon ET Tuesday. I expect this will be a great game between Green Bay and Cleveland State, as they split their two meetings this season while both led the conference. But this might be the last game remaining with major implications on Bubble Watch.

Green Bay picked up huge wins in the nonconference, beating Creighton in Omaha and taking down Washington State on a neutral court. Along with solid victories over mid-majors, plus its strong conference performance, the Phoenix have looked primed to make the NCAA Tournament field. The strong body of work has kept Phoenix on the bubble despite a late-season loss to UW Milwaukee.

Cleveland State is a phenomenal basketball team, on the brink of a 30-win season. However, it is a ways off from making the field; it’s 228th ranking in nonconference strength of schedule plays a significant part in that. If Green Bay loses Tuesday to the Vikings, that could put the Phoenix off of the bubble entirely.

Let’s say Cleveland State wins a close game, maybe in overtime. That makes the Vikings the Horizon’s automatic qualifier, but Green Bay also could still be in with this scenario. And that could spell trouble for teams on the outside of the bubble looking in if Green Bay swipes an invite as an at-large team because the committee thinks highly of its resume.

Cleveland State has been impressive this season. You might remember the Vikings from their first-round loss to Villanova last year, but this is a much different squad. Coach Chris Kielsmeir returned only 40 percent of rotational minutes from last season. Just six games into the season, the Vikings lost leading scorer, Destiny Leo, to a season-ending ACL and MCL injury, yet they have lost just three games since then.

Mickayla Perdue and Colbi Maples, both in their first year with the program after transferring, have combined for 35.6 points per game in Horizon play. They’re dynamic three-level scorers and playmakers, and they make Cleveland State a credible threat to win the league, but also in March Madness itself.

Intertwined mid-majors

Two of the nation’s top mid-majors punched their tickets to March, winning their conference tournaments after stellar regular season performances. Oh, and they played each other in a tight nonconference meeting.

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Richmond, the winner of that game, has put together a special season in Aaron Roussell’s fifth season at the helm. (More on the opponent later.) The Spiders took home their first A-10 tournament championship after beating Rhode Island this weekend to earn their first trip to the Big Dance since 2005.

Richmond plays with a great deal of versatility and like-sized players across the board, prioritizing spacing on offense (sixth nationally in 3-pointers), while sharing the ball at a high level. Maggie Doogan, a first-team All-A-10 performer, presents matchup difficulties for opponents, capable of shooting at a high level on volume, facing up, attacking the basket and scoring in the post.

The Spiders get after it defensively as well, led by forward Addie Budnik, the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. They ranked nationally in the 99th percentile in block rate, per CBB Analytics, with Budnik chipping in with 2.5 per game.

With wins this season over other top mid-majors in Drake and Maine, as well as reigning over the A-10 much of the year, Richmond would’ve been a likely at-large bid.

Chattanooga is the team that dropped that game, 64-60, to Richmond on Dec. 21. The Mocs responded by losing just once since. They lost a close game to a skilled Marshall team, which is currently slated as a No. 13 seed, early in the season, and they also beat solid Kent State as well as pickeing up a marquee win when they hosted Mississippi State.

In coach Shawn Poppie’s second year at the helm, the Mocs won eight more games, improving after having made the NCAA Tournament in Year 1.

 

The Mocs play at a much slower pace, among the bottom 10 teams in the country in possessions per game, but don’t let that fool you. Chattanooga is fierce offensively, grinding opponents with their patience in sets and execution on defense.

Jada Guinn, a graduate senior guard, got her first taste of the NCAA Tournament last season with Tennessee Tech, winning a First Four game against Monmouth before playing Indiana in the first round. She was good last year, but she’s been great this season by doubling her scoring average. She’s a remarkably strong slasher and mid-range operator, with one of the best floaters you might see in the NCAA Tournament. She pairs that with court vision and playmaking skills.

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If the Mocs match against a team that struggles guarding the middle of the floor, Guinn could help Chattanooga add to its special season.

Seed list

Seed Team Automatic qualifier
1 South Carolina (AQ)
2 USC (AQ)
3 Iowa (AQ)
4 Stanford
5 Texas
6 UCLA
7 Ohio State
8 LSU
9 Notre Dame (AQ)
10 NC State
11 UCONN (AQ)
12 Oregon State
13 Virginia Tech
14 Gonzaga (AQ)
15 Indiana
16 Colorado
17 Kansas State
18 Oklahoma
19 Utah
20 Syracuse
21 Baylor
22 Ole Miss
23 Louisville
24 West Virginia
25 Duke
26 Creighton
27 Florida State
28 Iowa State
29 Nebraska
30 Tennessee
31 Michigan State
32 Princeton (AQ)
33 North Carolina
34 Alabama
35 Kansas
36 Maryland
37 UNLV (AQ)
38 Michigan
39 Vanderbilt
40 Auburn
41 Marquette
42 Texas A&M
43 Arizona
44 Columbia
45 Miami
46 Middle Tennessee (AQ)
47 Drake (AQ)
48 Richmond (AQ)
49 Toledo (AQ)
50 FGCU (AQ)
51 Fairfield (AQ)
52 South Dakota State (AQ)
53 Marshall (AQ)
54 Eastern Washington (AQ)
55 Cleveland State (AQ)
56 Jackson State (AQ)
57 Chattanooga (AQ)
58 Stony Brook (AQ)
59 Temple (AQ)
60 Maine (AQ)
61 Norfolk State (AQ)
62 Cal Baptist (AQ)
63 Lamar (AQ)
64 Hawaii (AQ)
65 Holy Cross (AQ)
66 Presbyterian (AQ)
67 Sacred Heart (AQ)
68 Tennessee Martin (AQ)

The Bracket Central series is part of a partnership with E*TRADE.
The Athletic maintains full editorial independence. Partners have no control over or input into the reporting or editing process and do not review stories before publication.

(Top photo of Cameron Brink: Candice Ward / Getty Images)

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Mark Schindler is a 2021 graduate of the University of Toledo and has been working in basketball in a scouting and writing capacity since 2019. Alongside his current Bracket Watch and Bubble Watch series at The Athletic, you can find his work with Seven Star Digital covering all things basketball.

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