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Jordan Guskey | NCAA.com | February 11, 2019

Let’s break down the NCAA committee's first top 16 rankings for the women’s basketball tournament

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Here's how the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee would seed the nation’s top 16 teams for the NCAA tournament if the season ended today, according to the committee's release Monday night:

Current Seed Line School
1 Baylor
1 Louisville
1 Oregon
1 Mississippi State
2 UConn
2 Notre Dame
2 Stanford
2 North Carolina State
3 Marquette
3 Iowa
3 Maryland
3 Oregon State
4 South Carolina
4 Gonzaga
4 Iowa State
4 Miami (FL)

Baylor (21-1) is the team to beat right now and it should surprise no one that this Big 12 power occupies the top overall seed. Led by Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox, the Bears are on a 13-game winning streak, including an 11-0 mark in conference play, and own wins against fellow top-16 programs in South Carolina, UConn and Iowa State. 

Louisville (23-1), Oregon (23-1) and Mississippi State (22-1), which lost at Oregon in December, join Baylor as predictable 1-seeds. The Cardinals, Ducks and Bulldogs are all top-6 RPI and top-5 AP poll teams and have shown they deserve the spots the committee awarded them.

Only Oregon’s loss, of the four combined losses between the No. 1 seeds, came against a team that didn’t make the initial top 16. That defeat came on the road against a Michigan State team ranked 24th in the latest AP poll. The Ducks also have three players on the 2019 Citizen Naismith Trophy women’s midseason team.

“It’s been a very interesting season so far in terms of team movement from one week to the next, and this first top-16 reveal reflects that,” said committee chair Rhonda Lundin Bennett, senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at the University of Nevada, in the official release.

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There’s one team that could've made a strong case for the last 1-seed instead of Mississippi State, and that’s UConn.

The Huskies (21-2) occupy the top 2-seed alongside defending champion Notre Dame (22-3), Stanford (19-4) and North Carolina State (21-2). UConn’s only losses this season came on the road against Louisville and Baylor, and 20 of its victories have been won by 10 points or more. Coach Geno Auriemma’s squad is 10-0 in American Athletic Conference competition and, like Oregon, features three players on the Naismith top 30 watchlist.

Notre Dame and North Carolina State looked like 1-seeds until the past couple weeks. The Fighting Irish have coasted through their competition for most of the season, recording top-16 wins against Gonzaga, Oregon State, Iowa, Marquette and Louisville while losing just once through mid-January — against UConn. Then came losses at North Carolina on Jan. 27 and at Miami on Feb. 7. North Carolina State started the season 21-0 before back-to-back losses against UNC and Florida State.

Stanford’s place here may surprise some after its 40-point loss at home Sunday against Oregon dropped the Cardinal to 19-4 on the year. But two of its other losses were by single digits on the road in conference play, and the third happened on the road at a top-16 Gonzaga team. Stanford is also the only team to beat Baylor and is fifth in the RPI. 

Marquette (21-3), Iowa (19-5), Maryland (22-2) and Oregon State (20-4) occupy the first set of 3-seeds. The Golden Eagles haven’t lost since December and are on a 12-game winning streak that spans Big East play, with their only losses this season against teams also in the top 16. Iowa and Maryland are the only Big Ten teams to make this list. They haven’t played each other yet but both have a win apiece against a top-16 opponent.

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The Hawkeyes’ Megan Gustafson leads the nation with 27.3 points per game and paces her team with 12.8 rebounds per contest. She could lead Iowa to a 2-seed but the Hawkeyes may only jump up if a team above them falters.

Oregon State’s two-point win against South Carolina could be what gives the Beavers the edge over the top 4-seed. 

The Gamecocks (17-5) have gone 9-1 in SEC play after a non-conference schedule that included three losses against top-16 teams and round out the top 16 alongside Gonzaga (22-2), Iowa State (18-5) and Miami (21-5). All four have resume-building victories that earned them these spots but all four, if the season ended today, would also have to deal with the reality no team seeded fourth or worse in the NCAA tournament has won a national championship.

That’s not to say they can’t or that none of them will become a 3-seed or 2-seed. Iowa State has Naismith midseason watch list member Bridget Carleton and her 20.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Miami’s Beatrice Mompremier could win the Citizen Naismith Trophy, too, and averages 16.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. 

The next set of top 16 rankings will be revealed Monday, March 4 at halftime of ESPN2's broadcast of UConn vs. USF. The 64-team 2019 NCAA tournament field will then be unveiled two weeks later on Monday, March 18. 

“With still over a thousand games to be played over the final month of the regular season we know what was announced today is just a snapshot in time as we await the stretch run of the season,” Bennett said in the release, “including conference tournament play.”

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