Seeding a bracket is neither an art nor a science. In its proceedings, the committee has to ensure that schools hosting early-round matchups play at their home site while trying to create home-court advantages for higher seeds. The committee also makes sure two teams from the same conference cannot meet until each team has won three games. These guidelines often necessitate moving a team up a seed, down a seed, or even across the country from its optimal position. Having said that, here's how I'd rank the top 16 teams and the location where I'd place them in their first two rounds.
1. Tennessee (Knoxville)
2. LSU (Knoxville)
3. Stanford (Fresno)
4. North Carolina (Chapel Hill)
5. Michigan State (Minneapolis)
6. Duke (Chapel Hill)
7. Baylor (Fresno)
8. Rutgers (Storrs)
9. Connecticut (Storrs)
10. Ohio State (College Park)
11. Notre Dame (College Park)
12. Texas Tech (Dallas)
13. Texas (Dallas)
14. Minnesota (Minneapolis)
15. Georgia (Seattle)
16. Temple (Seattle)
Applying the S-curve and tweaking it to make sure no teams from the same conference meet before the Elite Eight, our regions would look like this:
3. Ohio State
3. Notre Dame
1. North Carolina
2. Michigan State
3. Texas Tech
Keep in mind these regions could drastically differ for any team that's not a #1 seed.
Here's a more detailed breakdown of the top teams' resumes:
1. Tennessee (Polls: 3; RPI: 1; 10-4 vs. RPI Top-25)
Coming off its SEC championship victory against LSU, little doubt remains that the Lady Volunteers will be the top overall seed. Three RPI top-10 wins (Stanford, @Connecticut, vs. LSU) tremendously bolster the resume for the Lady Volunteers, who have not lost to an opponent outside the RPI top-12 and have played only two games outside the RPI Top-100.
While four total losses and three non-conference losses are a tad high for the #1 overall team, the victory over LSU all but guaranteed Tennessee the overall top seed and the Chattanooga regional.
2. LSU (Polls: 3; RPI: 2; 12-1 road)
Perhaps no team had a more impressive first two months than the Lady Tigers, who posted victories over RPI Top 25 Arizona State, Baylor, Temple, Maryland and Minnesota in 2004. The team is 8-0 against teams with RPIs ranging from 11 to 25 and went 12-1 on the road. While they won't pass Tennessee, nobody's going to catch LSU from the rear either. Pencil these Tigers into Kansas City.
Other than a split against Tennessee, the Lady Tigers have not posted any RPI top-10 victories. The latest bow-out to the Lady Volunteers strongly suggests LSU will have to be seeded behind their rivals.
3. Stanford (Polls: 1; RPI: 5; 20-0 in 2005)
Conference tournament losses by Duke and Ohio State have made a top seed appear probable for the Cardinal. A 20-game winning streak by an average of over 20 points per game has driven the Cardinal to the #1 position in the polls and should be enough to lead the team to the #1 seed out of Tempe. The gaudy 29-2 overall and 16-2 away from home won't hurt either.
The Cardinal have played 15 teams outside the RPI Top 100, most of any of the teams in the RPI Top 15. Take away Arizona State (RPI 22) and the Cardinal are only 2-1 against the RPI Top 25. Even now, a #1 position is not guaranteed for the Cardinal, who could switch positions with any of the next four teams.
4. North Carolina (Polls: 3; RPI: 6; 13 straight victories)
UNC has won 13 in a row, with three victories over Duke in that span. The Tar Heels are a gaudy 9-3 against the RPI Top 25 and 6-0 against ACC heavyweights Duke and Virginia, which should be enough to land them the final #1 seed out of Philadelphia.
The Tar Heels have six victories outside the RPI Top 200, most of any team in the RPI Top 15. The Tar Heels have played only nine road games, going 6-3.
5. Michigan State (Polls: 6; RPI: 4; SOS: 17)
The Spartans have won 12 in a row and are 15-3 away from home. The Spartans are 8-3 against RPI Top-25 opponents and went 28-3 against the 17th toughest schedule in the country. Stanford, North Carolina, Michigan State, Duke and Baylor are incredibly close, so the Spartans could easily end up a #1 seed.
Three wins against Minnesota and a split against Ohio State are nothing to scoff at, but probably not impressive enough to launch the Spartans ahead of one of the four teams above them. Ohio State's early exit from the Big-10 tournament really cost the Spartans a chance to make a late-season statement.
6. Duke (Polls: 6.5; RPI: 3; SOS: 3)
The Blue Devils went 28-4 (28-1 not including UNC) against the third toughest schedule in the country. The Blue Devils won in Tennessee and beat four other teams in the RPI Top 25. The Blue Devils did not lose outside the RPI Top-10.
Although Duke's RPI is higher, three losses to UNC in their last 13 games make it unlikely the Blue Devils would be seeded higher than the Tar Heels. The Blue Devils went 1-4 against the RPI Top 10, lacking a marquee win to back up their victory at Tennessee.
7. Baylor (Polls: 6; RPI: 11; 25-3 overall)
Still alive in the Big 12 tournament, a strong finish could enter the Bears into the discussion for a #1 seed, especially considering their 9-2 road record. The Bears have won 12 straight, leading them to a gaudy 25-3 overall record. Two of Baylor's losses almost went the other way, as the Bears lost by one to LSU and in triple-overtime against Nebraska.
Other than Stanford, Baylor is the only team ranked this high without an RPI Top 10 victory. A three-point victory at Texas Tech is Baylor's only road victory against a RPI Top 40 team.
8. Rutgers (Polls: 9; RPI: 8; SOS: 11)
The three-game stretch of non-conference wins against Tennessee, Texas and LSU stands second to none. Four of Rutgers' six losses came against RPI Top 10 opponents, as the Scarlet Knights did not lose to an opponent outside the RPI Top 40.
The Scarlet Knights have gone only 7-6 on the road, and only 2-6 when visiting RPI Top 50 teams. Connecticut took the season series 2-1 over Rutgers with its 67-51 victory in the Big East tournament, so it may be hard for Rutgers to climb to a seed much higher than Connecticut's. Rutgers doesn't look likely to pass any of the teams in front of them, so just one team behind the Scarlet Knights would be needed to knock Rutgers out of their projected #2 seed.
9. Connecticut (Polls: 12; RPI: 10; SOS: 6)
The Lady Huskies have dropped only one game to an opponent outside the RPI Top 10. Victories over Notre Dame and Rutgers en route to the Big East championship may ensure that the Huskies receive the highest seed of any Big East squad.
The Lady Huskies didn't exactly shine against the cream of the crop, posting a 6-7 record against the RPI Top 50. Connecticut played only 11 games away from home and fared only 7-4.
10. Ohio State (Polls: 7.5; RPI: 9; 28-4)
The Buckeyes have beaten four different RPI Top 20 opponents and have not lost outside the RPI Top 20. The Buckeyes also defeated three of the four teams they lost to, leaving a four-point loss at Notre Dame in November as the only loss for which they did not exact revenge.
The Buckeyes finished only 3-2 in their last five and their top road win came against RPI #46 Iowa. The Big Ten's bottom teams drag down the Buckeyes' strength of schedule to 29th, not reflective of the eight RPI Top 20 matchups the Buckeyes endured.
11. Notre Dame (Polls: 11; RPI: 7; SOS: 13)
The Irish scheduled aggressively out-of-conference, facing RPI Top 10 Duke, Ohio State and Michigan State in their first eight games. The Irish came a double-overtime loss against Michigan State away from sweeping the trifecta, and they have also posted victories against RPI Top 10 Rutgers and Connecticut.
The Irish went only 3-2 in their last five, with double-digit losses against Connecticut and Rutgers. The stretch dropped the Irish significantly in the polls and makes unlikely a scenario where the Irish are seeded ahead of Rutgers or Connecticut.
12. Texas Tech (Polls: 14; RPI: 13; SOS: 19)
A clutch win over Iowa State on Wednesday only looks to improve the Red Raiders' seeding as Big 12 tournament play continues. All but eight of the Red Raiders' opponents have been in the RPI Top 100. The Red Raiders' first four losses came by a total of nine points and they have not lost outside the RPI Top 30.
The Red Raiders have gone only 2-4 against the RPI Top 25 and 6-6 against the RPI Top 50. The Red Raiders are only 1-3 against other Big 12 heavyweights Texas and Baylor. While consistent, this squad might lack the explosiveness to move them up the list. Texas Tech also scheduled only one out-of-conference road game, albeit at RPI #5 Stanford.
13. Texas (Polls: 10.5; RPI: 12; SOS: 10)
The Longhorns played a consistently tough schedule, with only seven teams outside the RPI Top 100 on the slate. A fifteen point win over RPI #1 Tennessee will certainly leave an impression with the selection committee.
The Longhorns have fared only 7-6 on the road and only 4-5 against the RPI Top 25. Three of Texas' seven RPI Top 50 wins occurred all the way back in November. Since then, Texas posted a 2-4 record to start 2005, with double-digit losses to Connecticut and Texas Tech.
14. Minnesota (Polls: 12.5; RPI: 14; 1-6 vs. RPI Top 25)
Strong run to the Big Ten Tournament finals gives the Gophers a boost in the polls and a much-needed victory over RPI #9 Ohio State. Minnesota was more than willing to leave the Metrodome during their season, playing 14 games away from home.
A loss to RPI #106 Washington won't look good on the Gophers' resume, nor will a horrific 1-6 against the RPI Top 25. It's hard to see Minnesota much higher than a #4 after running up their record on Big 10 bottom-feeders. The Gophers are 8-0 against conference foes outside the RPI Top 100.
15. Georgia (Polls: 20.5; RPI: 17; SOS: 16)
The field really dwindles after Texas and Minnesota have been taken off the board, so while Georgia's statistics aren't nearly as impressive as the teams ahead of them, they're probably pretty secure as a #4 or #5 seed. Five wins against the RPI Top 50 and the 16th toughest schedule in the country won't hurt Georgia's cause either.
Georgia went only 5-5 on the road and just 2-4 against the RPI Top 25. The Bulldogs have lost to three teams outside the RPI Top 50: Georgia Tech, Kentucky, and Mississippi. The Bulldogs finished only 6-4 in their last ten and went 0-3 against SEC heavyweights LSU and Tennessee.
16. Temple (Polls: 15; RPI: 19; 24 straight wins)
Temple has gone 14-2 away from home and has won 24 straight after a 3-3 start. Temple went a perfect 16-0 in conference and has lost only three times on the season, fewer than the projected #1 overall seed. While the overall schedule strength is sub-par, the Owls certainly challenged themselves out of conference, facing RPI Top 10 LSU, Tennessee and Rutgers.
Temple's played 20 games outside the RPI Top 100 and nine outside the RPI Top 200. The Lady Owls are only 4-3 against the RPI Top 50. Only a December victory over #8 Rutgers counts as a RPI Top 25 win. The 91st toughest schedule in the country may give the committee second thoughts about seeding the Owls this high.
Keep in mind a good seed can only carry a squad so deep into the NCAA tournament, a tournament where seasons can be won or lost on one play, one second, or one shot. Good luck to your team as it prepares for its tournament run!
(Note: All data from collegerpi.com through games of March 8.)
Daniel Novinson is a freshman at Stanford University. He's broadcasting women's basketball on KZSU - listen along at kzsu.org or 90.1 FM. Daniel welcomes any feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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