What happened last week in women's college basketball might set up everything that happens the rest of the 2020-21 season.
Over a four-day period, nine ranked teams in the AP Top 25 lost. As a result, margins for error got smaller and teams that seemed to have a firm hold on their spot in the women's NCAA bracket no longer have nearly as tight a grip. Baylor, Oregon, Texas A&M and Texas all have more to wonder about than they did seven days ago.
Good teams losing means plenty of shifting seeds in women's Bracketology. The Ducks dropped from a No. 3 to a No. 4. South Florida became a top-16 seed. The Aggies fell off the No. 2 line and Michigan jumped to a No. 3.
While it might not look like much of that movement occurred on the No. 1 seed line -- Louisville replaced NC State while South Carolina, UConn and Stanford remained No. 1 seeds -- the shifting that took place among those teams could impact plenty down the road.
Stanford (11-1 overall) falling to Colorado on Sunday was the most seismic loss among Top 25 teams. The Buffaloes were 5-6 heading into the game and hadn't beaten the Cardinal since 2002. Stanford's cushion as the top overall team allowed it to stay a No. 1 seed, but the Cardinal lost some breathing room. They are now No. 3 overall, with UCLA up next on the schedule.
Stanford had looked so dominant up until Sunday, but a loss to the Bruins on Friday would knock the Cardinal from a No. 1 seed. But right now, Stanford entered Monday as the No. 2-rated team in the NET, with more quality wins than any other team in the country other than South Carolina.
The NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) is the new quantitative measure the selection committee is using as part of the means to choose and seed the teams for the tournament. The NET replaces the RPI as the foundational data that the committee would use to rate teams. It's more comprehensive and should be a welcome change. Like the RPI, the NET has a results-oriented component, but one that also integrates where the game was played. The NET goes further by adding an efficiency rating, one that measures how many points per possession a team scores, plus how many it gives up.
So now the rankings from which the committee will work goes from who did you beat (RPI), to who did you beat, where did you beat them and how did you play while beating them.
The NCAA started releasing NET ratings two weeks ago, and they impacted how the rest of the No. 1 seeds shook out this week.
South Carolina is the new No. 1 overall team in Bracketology. No. 3 in the NET entering Monday, the Gamecocks have the second-toughest schedule in the country and six wins against teams in the top 30 of the NET. The Gamecocks at No. 1 overall wasn't a hard decision. In this upheaval of a season, South Carolina (10-1) -- despite its one loss -- has done more than any team in the country.
UConn (6-0), which is No. 1 in the NET, is the No. 2 overall seed in Bracketology. The Huskies' schedule has suffered plenty because of COVID-19 -- games against Louisville and Baylor were canceled -- and there is a perception that the level of competition UConn has faced hasn't been No. 1 seed-caliber. That perception just isn't true.
The average NET rating of the teams UConn has beaten is 108. That's better than all but three other teams in the top 10. (That number is 104 for Louisville, the fourth No. 1 seed this week.) UConn, which also ranks second nationally in points per possession offense and third on defense, has played a commensurate schedule to any of the other highly rated teams in the country and deserves to be a No. 1 seed.
Louisville (12-0) replaced NC State (10-0) as the final No. 1 seed due to two factors: The Cardinals picked up another quality win by blowing out Florida State on Sunday, and the Wolfpack, due to COVID-19 protocol issues, haven't played since Jan. 3. NC State merely got passed on the S-curve.
The Wolfpack might also have been passed by Baylor had the Lady Bears not lost to Iowa State on Saturday. Instead, Baylor is now closer to a No. 3 seed than it is to a No. 1. Losing that game and its 61-game home-winning streak is another one of those losses that will continue to impact the Lady Bears all season in the quest to maximize their seed.