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Gary Putnik | | January 28, 2022

Breaking down the first in-season top 16 women's basketball reveal

Committee chair Nina King breaks down first women's basketball top-16 rankings of 2022

The first of three top 16 rankings reveals from the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee has been announced. South Carolina, Stanford, NC State and Tennessee would be No. 1 seeds if the season ended today.

Before we dig deeper, check out the full top 16 through Wednesday, Jan. 26 games.

  1. South Carolina (No. 1 seed – Greensboro Region)
  2. Stanford (No. 1 seed – Spokane Region)
  3. NC State (No. 1 seed – Bridgeport Region)
  4. Tennessee (No. 1 seed – Wichita Region)
  5. Louisville
  6. Indiana
  7. Texas
  8. Arizona
  9. Michigan
  10. Iowa State
  11. UConn
  12. LSU
  13. Baylor
  14. Oregon
  15. Georgia
  16. Kansas State

What to know from this reveal

Plenty can change from now until the second announcement on Feb. 10, the third on Feb. 28 and the official tournament selections on March 13.

The SEC and Big 12 are tied for the most teams in the top 16 (four), but the SEC has two of its four as No. 1 seeds. 

Pac-12 comes in a close second with Stanford at No. 2 and two others down the list for a grand total of three. The ACC's two teams come in at Nos. 3 and 5 overall (NC State, Louisville).

The Big Ten also has two representatives with Indiana and Michigan both in the top 10. Then, UConn comes in at No. 11 as the only team from the Big East in the first top 16 rankings. 

Looking ahead

There’s still a lot of time for teams to shift up and down in the rankings, but historically those in the first top 16 tend to earn a No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 seed come selection day. 

Here are some trends from the first top 16 compared to the final seeds on selection day in the past four completed seasons (so not counting the 2020 season because of the tournament cancelation due to COVID-19):

No. 1 seeds

In each of the past four completed seasons, one initial No. 1 seed a year has dropped to a lower seed on selection day. The ones that did fall have only moved down to a No. 2 seed. 

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Just because the team trended slightly downward on the seed line didn’t mean it performed poorly in the tournament, however. Three of the four teams went on to Elite Eight runs (Louisville - 2021, Oregon - 2018, ‘19), while 2017’s Mississippi State team made it all the way to the national championship game, falling to No. 1 South Carolina.

Out of the teams that held strong and didn’t move a seed from the first ranking to selections, all had deep runs. Last season saw three teams in the Final Four and the national champion (Stanford), 2019 had two teams make it to the Elite Eight, one in the Final Four and the national champion (Baylor). Earlier, in 2018, three teams made the Final Four, but Mississippi State wasn’t able to take down Notre Dame in the title game. In 2017, one team reached the Elite Eight, two made the Final Four and the other was national champion (South Carolina). 

If you were keeping track, one of the teams that started and finished as a No. 1 seed made the championship game each year. So, if your team holds up and finishes as a one seed, there’s a solid chance it could make it all the way to the Final Four and possibly the championship. 

No. 2 seeds

When a No. 1 seed drops to a No. 2 come selection day, that means a No. 2 from the first reveal typically fills that gap.

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In three of the four completed seasons, Notre Dame has been the team that makes the jump from a No. 2 to a No. 1 from the first top 16 to selection day (2017-2019). The Fighting Irish made the title game twice in that time, losing in the Elite Eight in 2017, winning it all in 2018 over Mississippi State and then losing to Baylor in the 2019.

There have been five teams to fall off the No. 2 seed line from the first reveal. None has dropped lower than a No. 3 seed. Arizona even reached the 2021 championship game.

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No. 3 seeds

The No. 3 seeds have seen the least amount of teams drop, but when one does fall, there hasn’t been a consistent spot to land. In 2021, Oregon dropped from a No. 3 to a No. 6, 2019 saw Marquette drop to a No. 5 and Oregon State to a No. 4. Those who fall don’t always stay down, however, as Oregon and Oregon State made it all the way to the Sweet 16.

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No. 4 seeds

The first 2018 reveal saw maybe the most drastic of moves. Rutgers was originally a top 16 seed in the first release, but come selection day, the Scarlet Knights were left out of the tournament all together. 

When it comes to moving up, only one team in the last four completed seasons has risen to a No. 3 seed after being ranked at No. 4 initially. Last season, Tennessee did just that.

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