Hello, college basketball/Big Ten fans!
Later on today I will post my annual griping on the NCAA men's basketball tournament field but there's the saying "ladies first" (even though the men's field was announced first).
According to my records, this is only the third time in Schmolik history that I have posted a women's bracket before the actual bracket. I have posted a men's bracket before the actual bracket annually for years at various sites. I remember my first ones were posted at some newsgroup that I don't even think exists anymore.
I was able to find my first one Women's Schmolik 64: online, it was back in 2010!!!!:
I then didn't do another until 2017 when I started to use SB Nation more regularly.
Both years the University of Connecticut was undefeated going into the NCAA Tournament. In 2010 they won it all but in 2017 they were stunned in the semifinals by Mississippi State and haven't won an NCAA tournament since.
Women's basketball seems to be on the upswing lately, more games are being televised now, this year's women's basketball championship game will be shown on ABC rather than on ESPN (cable). I believe the last time the women's basketball national championship was on free TV was when Rebecca Lobo was playing (1995 national championship). I will admit one of the big reasons I'm more interested in women's basketball lately is UConn player Paige Bueckers who sadly isn't playing this year. Hopefully she will be back next year.
I certainly am more into the men than the women but feel the women should get their due more. One of the great storylines to me this season is that my alma mater Illinois made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. I will admit that the fact that they have traditionally not been a good program has hurt my enthusiasm for the sport. When I was in college, they didn't make the NCAA Tournament any year they were there (I sadly graduated right before Teresa Grentz got there). The Big Ten certainly has some great women's teams this season with Indiana being a #1 seed and Iowa with Caitlin Clark who in my opinion should have been a #1 seed, Maryland, and Ohio State.
As to comparing my bracket with the NCAA bracket...
I don't consider it good when I disagree with not one but TWO of the NCAA's #1 seeds. I don't think I've ever had a year where I differ on two of the NCAA's men's #1 seeds. I had both Iowa and Connecticut as #1 seeds while the NCAA had Virginia Tech and Stanford. Iowa won the Big Ten Tournament title while UConn won the Big East Tournament. Stanford was beaten in the semfinals of the Pac 12 Tournament.
According to Selection Committee Chair Lisa Peterson, "Virginia Tech is on an 11-game winning streak, and the way that they've played at the end of the season, and then in their conference tournament, was the reason why they ended up on the one line," Peterson said. "They, also like Stanford, had 20 wins in the [NET] top 100."
Though Stanford shockingly dropped two of its last three games in Pac-12 play, the Cardinal's body of work was robust enough to keep them as a 1-seed. In comparison, UConn had 19 wins over the NET top 100, while Iowa had 18."
First, I didn't know that women's basketball didn't use "Quads" like the men's basketball did and just used straight NET 100. I used the same NET Quads like the men did from WarrenNolan. UConn had 15 Quad 1 wins, tied with the most with South Carolina. You reward Virginia Tech but don't punish Stanford for losing two of three games?
I also feel that they should have considered the fact that Azzi Fudd came back for UConn's last few games and UConn looked very good in the Big East Tournament. They beat a Marquette team that had beaten them in the regular season by 29 points in the semifinals. Peterson's reaction?
"The Huskies dealt with a slew of injuries this season, most prominently with former No. 1 recruit Azzi Fudd getting sidelined for two lengthy stretches with knee issues. She has only appeared in 12 games this season but returned for the Big East tournament.
"It was a very difficult conversation, and certainly we all are very well aware of the injuries that Connecticut had had," Peterson said. "And while those games may have ended up differently if their lineup had been different, we can't discredit that those ended up being losses."
At least UConn and Virginia Tech and Iowa and Stanford wound up together. It would have been absolutely unfair if UConn or Iowa wound up with South Carolina in their regional, especially since that regional will be played in Greenville in South Carolina's home state! Maryland got screwed there, they will have a really hard time making the Final Four now.
I had Maryland in the exact same spot in my bracket in essentially the "bottom #2". I had LSU in the #2 in Indiana's regional while the NCAA had Utah. It seems like the NCAA has disrespected LSU all season. LSU has only lost two games all year and one was to undefeated South Carolina. But they only have six Quad 1 wins. I'd have to count how many "top 100 NET" wins they have, I don't imagine it's that many. Ohio State is a #3 seed which is exactly where the NCAA has them.
I placed 15 of the 16 home teams (seeds #1-4) correctly. I had Iowa State instead of Tennessee. ISU wound up a #5 seed but I had Tennessee a #6. Their SEC semifinal win over LSU likely put them over the top. I think there was a big bunching at the 4-5-6 line, a lot of teams in that range could have had an argument for hosting. Michigan had appeared in the previous women's bracket preview but fell to a #6.
For some reason I had missed Oregon when not only going through my bracket but listing the highest NET for teams left out. They had a NET of #19 but I didn't put them in. I must have shied away from their record of 17-14. Well maybe I had a feeling because the NCAA didn't include them either!
I must be Big Ten biased to include Michigan State though for a 16-14 record. I remembered the win over Indiana not because I saw the game but I remember an early Iowa-Ohio State or Iowa-Indiana game and remembered when Indiana had just one loss and it was Michigan State and it stood out to me. No offense to the Michigan State fans reading this but honestly I regret that pick. I also right after posting it went to ESPN's women's bracketology and saw St. John's and then saw they not only beat UConn but in Storrs. You can probably tell UConn is my favorite non Big Ten women's basketball team and I can't believe I forget that St. John's beat them. I really feel I should have put St. John's in my field. I probably would have put St. John's in over Michigan State if I had to do it again. St. John's of course did make the real NCAA field. I thought Miami and West Virginia were among the last teams in, the NCAA did not, both were solidly in.
The NCAA women's field doesn't use Quads so Georgia got in. Mississippi State is the other team I missed although they were a "First Four". The other teams I had out were Columbia and Kansas. I think Kansas has a legitimate beef being left out, they swept Oklahoma State which is in, Kansas has a higher NET, Ok State finished one game ahead in the Big 12. According to ESPN, "Columbia, Kansas, UMass and Oregon just missed playing in the women's NCAA tournament as the first four teams out of the field." so my Columbia pick wasn't as surprising as I thought it was. The Selection Committee certainly was considering a second Ivy League team in the field although it chickened out at the last minute and chose some SEC school that beat nobody (yeah I'm talking to you, Georgia, zero Quad 1 wins vs. five for Columbia)!
I don't know if I will do an annual women's bracket in the future. I'd like to although it does make my Selection Sundays busier doing both the men's and women's brackets on the same day. Hopefully Illinois becomes good and this year's NCAA Tournament is the first of many and I know this is a Big Ten board but I hope Paige Bueckers comes back next year. As for this year's tournament, I know this will shock no one but I have this strange feeling South Carolina will win it all. If you gave me South Carolina vs. the field, I'd take South Carolina.