What: NCAA women’s basketball Selection Show
When: 4:00 pm PT
I’m in Berkeley and want to find out with the team! I’m jealous! You should head to Cornerstone on Shattuck Avenue!
Give me the good news!
Cal women’s basketball is a mortal lock to make the NCAA tournament! This was widely assumed already, but was even further confirmed when the NCAA announced which teams were being considered for the final at-large spots in the field:
Most relevant from the Cal perspective is the inclusion of USC, a team with an identical strength of schedule, lower RPI, worse record, worse conference record, fewer good wins, and an 0-2 head-to-head disadvantage. Cal is objectively better than USC, and thus will be in the field. Go Bears!
But then there must be bad news?
The lowest at-large teams typically get 10/11 seeds. Cal should be a bit ahead of those teams. Pretty much every credible WBB bracketologist says that Cal will be an 8 or 9 seed . . . which means a tough round 1 game before a potential date against one of the very best teams in the country on their home court.
Yeah. Want to get into the grisly numbers? Of the 92 #1 seeds since the tournament expanded to 64, 88 have advanced to the Sweet 16. None of those have happened since the NCAA changed the format to allow top seeds to host opening weekend games on their home floor.
But that’s getting well ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with Cal’s opening game. If we assume that our Bears are likely to get an 8 or 9 seed, which teams are potential first round opponents? Charlie Creme lists the following squads as 8/9 level teams:
Michigan and Oklahoma State are the teams that should scare you. Both played difficult schedules and suffered a number of close losses to legit tournament teams, and both would present serious difficulties to any team they might play, Cal absolutely included.
Dayton is probably the pick - their best win is a home win over a team about as good as USC, and they have a couple iffy losses and a weak schedule.
Everybody else is roughly as good. And, needless to say, nobody can be overlooked.
How bout those 1 seeds?
The 1 seeds are likely to be UConn, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, and Louisville. Baylor has an outside shot but their awful non-conference strength of schedule will probably cost them a seed line.
Of those choices, either Notre Dame or Louisville is probably the best pick. Cal is probably likely to avoid the trip all the way to Connecticut since the Bears have already played the Huskies (now there’s a reason to schedule UConn). Still, we’re talking about a group of five teams that have 7 combined losses . . . and 4 of those losses came to each other. The top teams in the nation have been all but untouchable this year.
Any chance we move up to a 7 seed?
It’s just hard to see how the committee justifies it. Cal only has one high value win, and only one decent road win, with a solid but unspectacular RPI and strength of schedule for an at large. Four single digit losses to RPI top 25 teams hurts, but it’s hard to say that the chances weren’t there to bolster the resume.
It’s March and the Bears will be dancing. And while the odds are long that the dancing will be long-term, it’s certainly much much better than the alternative. Go Bears!