Let’s start out with the objective facts . . . which can change slightly based on events around the country, but are at least ballpark accurate:
Cal RPI: 41st
Overall record: 19-12
RPI Strength of schedule: 23rd
vs. 1-25: 2-5
vs. 26-50: 2-4
vs. 51-100: 3-3
vs. 100+: 12-0
What do the bracketologists say?
ESPN’s Charlie Creme currently lists Cal as an 8 seed, as does the College Sports Madness bracket. As of Friday, Charlie sees us heading out to Starkville to play Mississippi St. while College Sports Madness predicts Baylor and Waco. Unfortunately, unlike the 150-200 folks who will attempt to project what the men’s selection committee will do, that’s about it for the WBB side.
If Cal does in fact end up as an 8 or 9 seed, the WBB tournament’s extra emphasis on geography is likely to result in Cal getting sent to the nearest geographic 1 seed. With Baylor likely to join UConn, Notre Dame, Mississippi St./Louisville as potential 1 seeds, Texas is virtually guaranteed to be the closest geographic landing spot for the Bears.
So, let’s assume that Cal’s seed range possibilities sit from 7 to 10. For the sake of being thorough, what are the possible outcomes?
Baylor, Louisville, Notre Dame, Mississippi St., Iowa, Maryland – Pac-12 foes Oregon and Stanford are very likely 2 seeds that Cal can’t be matched up against, and the committee is very, very unlikely to send Cal all the way across the country for a potential in-season rematch with UConn. (Besides the RPI boost, this is the best reason to play UConn.)
For my money, getting sent to Iowa City to play the Hawkeyes is probably the best scenario that has a realistic chance of happening. Iowa is on the weaker end of likely 2 seeds, and Iowa isn’t so far to travel compared to other options.
If Cal does end up as an 8, then there isn’t really a ‘good’ option. Louisville/Mississippi St. are the two teams competing for the final 1 seed, and are comparatively weaker than Baylor/Notre Dame. They are also both further from Berkeley. There’s a reason that Cal has seen recent seasons end in both Waco and South Bend.
Is it even worth getting into possible first round opponents, with something like 15-20 possible opponents?
First of all, one other bracketologist I’ve been following is Russell Steinberg, who also seems credible. He’s got Cal as a 9 seed in...Waco. Not exactly a bracket matrix, but adding 50% more data points, it looks like Waco is the spot.
Second, no way in heck it’s worth the time going through possible first round opponents. It’s a fool’s errand trying to predict that, and nobody wants to read about it. But there needs to be some suspense, so let’s at least play with a best case scenario for our destination. I don’t think there’s any reasonable possibility we’re seeded higher than 7, so let’s talk about the 7 seed. I don’t think Maryland is actually in play for a 2 seed (by virtue of Iowa beating Maryland last Sunday), and I consider Louisville (currently on the 2 line in some brackets) basically a 1a.
That leaves Iowa. The weakest of the teams we could possibly be visiting, and home of Megan Gustafson, a potentially spectacular matchup for Kristine (that might catch the committee’s eye?) If we somehow get to that 7 line, Iowa is a likely destination. (Yay?) So. What are the odds? Let’s take a look at the other teams in the mix:
You get a sense from doing this how hard the committee’s job is. I can construct a scenario in which we’re one of the best 4 teams in that group, based on our strength of schedule, and justttt enough quality wins, especially with a win over a 2 seed. I can especially see that construction being appealing if the committee finds the prospect of Gustafson vs Anigwe attractive.
But at the end of the day, who the hell knows? I used to construct MBB s-curves from scratch for years, and the web of assumptions made early in the process has a way of permeating the whole process, and we have no way of knowing what those assumptions were for this particular committee. I suppose I’ll guesstimate it this way: 10% chance we get to the 7 line. 10% chance we fall to the 10 line. Both of those scenarios might actually be good for us. So that gives our fans something to root for on Monday. At the end of the day, though, I’m fully expecting an 8 or 9 seed at the home of a powerhouse, probably Baylor. Sorry. I gotta be real.
Will Cal get sent to Waco for the 3rd time in 6 seasons? Will Cal then have a chance to play Baylor on their home floor in the 2nd round for the 3rd time in 6 seasons? Does WBB seriously need to reconsider how they run WBB bracketing rules to avoid repetition like this?
Tune in to the selection show on Monday at 4:00 PT on ESPN to get questions 1 and 2 answered!