The NCAA Division I women's basketball committee released its latest top 16 seed projections Monday night, two weeks ahead of Selection Monday.
And according to the committee, not much has changed in the sport since it released its last rankings on Feb. 3. In its latest round of projections, the committee's top three teams remained the same. In fact, no new teams entered the top 16, but some teams in that initial ranking shuffled around a bit.
Let's take a look at the rankings and figure out what they mean heading into conference tournament season.
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Top 3 remains the same: South Carolina, Baylor, Oregon
The committee's top three teams did not change in its latest projection, as it handed South Carolina, Baylor and Oregon all No. 1 seeds and placed them in regions close to their respective homes.
The committee has tabbed the Gamecocks to be the top seed in Greenville, South Carolina; the Lady Bears to be the top seed in Dallas, Texas; and the Ducks to be top seed in Portland, Oregon. Playing so close to home in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds could be a big advantage for these three squads.
Since the committee released its last batch of projections, all these teams have done is cement their cases to be No. 1 seeds. South Carolina hasn't lost in the last month and beat a trio of AP Top 25 teams, including UConn. Baylor hasn't lost in that stretch either and continues to have a top-five offense and defense. Oregon, led by Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally, has won 16 straight games and has beaten five AP Top 25 teams in the last month.
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Maryland muscles into a No. 1 seed
The new team in the top four for the committee is Maryland, who jumped up from the eighth overall seed on Feb. 3 to the fourth overall seed on Monday. The committee has them slotted as the top seed in the Fort Wayne, Indiana regional.
Led by Kaila Charles, the Terps have won 14 straight and have looked like giants in the Big Ten lately. The Terps went on the road to end their regular season Sunday and thumped Minnesota 99-44 to win their fifth regular season conference title in six years. Taylor Mikes swished six 3-pointers en route to a stat line of 22 points, four assists and three steals.
Brenda Frese's side is fourth in the nation in scoring offense, racking up 83.7 points per-game.
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Conference tournaments will provide opportunities
These next two weeks will give the teams up top the chance to cement their cases as top seeds, and give the teams on the edge the opportunity to improve. In Maryland's case, for example, a Big Ten tournament championship would likely solidify its placing as a No. 1 seed. And — should South Carolina, Baylor or Oregon slip up — give them a chance to move up a spot or two.
If Maryland makes a mistake in its conference tournament, it will open the door for No. 5 Louisville, No. 6 UConn or even No. 7 Stanford to swoop in and take the fourth seed.
The teams in the committee's bottom four — Iowa, Arizona, Oregon State and DePaul — need to do well enough to hold on to their spots, which will give them the privilege of hosting first and second round games in their home arenas. Squads on the outside looking in — like Texas A&M, Kentucky, South Dakota and Princeton — are hoping a few of those teams are victims to upsets in their conference tournaments.
A lot of basketball will be played in the next two weeks, but we're getting closer to the time where you can break out your brackets. It's March, y'all.
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