Ranked fourth in the country in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls, along with being projected as a No. 1 seed by ESPN’s bracketologist Charlie Creme Thursday afternoon, the Baylor women’s basketball team can boast Top 5 credentials. So when the NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Committee revealed its top 16 teams on Thursday, the Lady Bears’ spot was a surprise.
Baylor came in at No. 9.
So if the season ended today, that would mean that the Lady Bears would enter the NCAA Tournament as a 3 seed. Baylor has been a top 2 seed the last seven seasons.
Keep in mind, though, that these top-16 announcements, according to NCAA.com, will have no bearing on the final 64-team field for the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship that will be announced on Selection Monday on March 12.
The reason for the lower seed, as explained by the analysts on ESPN where the top-16 reveal was made during halftime of the Tennessee-Notre Dame contest, is Baylor’s strength of schedule, which is ranked 133rd — the lowest of the top 16 teams.
The analysts went on to compare Baylor to last year’s Maryland team who was also named a 3-seed in the first of three top-16 reveals. The Terrapins won the Big Ten regular and tournament titles but ended up as a 3-seed in the tournament. The Terrapins advanced to the Sweet 16 before they were topped by 10th-seeded Oregon.
This doesn’t mean that history will repeat itself. The Lady Bears have plenty of opportunities to play their way up with games against the likes of Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
According to NCAA.com, the selection criteria includes RPI (Rating Percentage Index), which consists of a team’s Division I winning percentage (25 percent weight), its opponents winning percentage (50 percent weight) and its opponents opponents’ winning percentage (25 percent weight).
The rest of the criteria is – ability to elevate, availability of talent, bad losses, common opponents, competitive in losses, conference record, early competition versus late competition, head to head, non-conference record, overall record, regional rankings, relative strength of schedule, significant wins, strength of conference and winnability.
The other two top-16 announcements will take place on Feb. 1 during halftime of the UConn-South Carolina game on ESPN (6 p.m.) and Feb. 19, during ESPN2’s Big Monday/Play4Kay tripleheader that includes Florida State at Duke (5 p.m.), Baylor at Texas (7 p.m.) and UCLA at Oregon (9 p.m.).