The 2012 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship field was announced Monday, and for the first time in the history of the tournament, the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee publicly revealed the last four teams in, as well as the first four teams missing the cut for this year’s bracket.

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Earning the No. 1 seeds were Baylor (34-0; Des Moines Regional), Notre Dame (30-3; Raleigh Regional), Stanford (31-1; Fresno Regional) and Connecticut (29-4; Kingston Regional). No. 2 seed Tennessee (Des Moines Regional) continues its tournament appearance streak, having secured a berth in all 31 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships to date. No. 4 seed Georgia (Raleigh Regional) is close behind, making its 29th overall appearance. First time tournament participants include the University at Albany (NY), Florida Gulf Coast and St. Bonaventure.

The last four teams selected to the at-large field of 64, in alphabetical order, are Florida, Kansas, Michigan and Texas. The first four teams out (the last teams under discussion that did not make the field), in alphabetical order, are: Oklahoma State, Southern California, Temple and Virginia.

“In the committee members minds, the last four teams in have demonstrated this season that they could beat teams selected above them,” said Greg Christopher, chair of the Women’s Basketball Committee and director of athletics at Bowling Green State University. “By extension, the first four teams out did not differentiate themselves in the same way as those teams in the field, while they did have significant losses we had to consider.”

The 10-member committee thoroughly reviewed and vetted every team under consideration throughout the selection process, including watching more than 1,500 games throughout the season. The committee ultimately seeks to select the teams that best differentiate themselves from the other teams under consideration.

Christopher highlighted that the committee spent a significant amount of time discussing the last grouping of teams, which speaks to the strength of the field this year. In evaluating the last four teams in, the committee paid particular attention to the fact that each had no less than four wins each against teams in the tournament. Florida, Kansas and Texas were in the top 25 for their strength of schedule (Texas was at 51 strength of schedule), while all four had multiple wins against top 50 teams.

On the ESPNU Selection Show, Christopher also explained that though the first four had quality characteristics for selection (i.e. solid strength of schedule, wins against top 50 teams), they also had blemishes on their résumés that prevented them from making the field. Oklahoma State finished their season winning only four of their last 12 games; USC had some significant losses including the first game of the Pac-12 Tournament; and both Temple (0-5) and Virginia (1-6) had losing records against teams in the top 25 of the RPI.

“All 10 members of the committee understand that thousands of fans are as invested in this process as they are, and we take our roles very seriously,” said Christopher. “The process has many layers, but in the end, the long-standing parameters and guidelines allow the committee members to identify the most deserving teams for the field of 64. The committee is looking forward to a great 2012 championship and Women’s Final Four in Denver.”