On Monday, the NCAA released its preliminary top 16 national seeds for the Women’s Basketball Tournament. USF, despite being #12 in the national poll, did not make the NCAA’s top sixteen seeds. This implies they would receive a #5 seed or lower if the NCAA tournament started today.
I’m not bothered by this. And Bulls fans shouldn’t care either. There are several reasons why:
The entire NCAA tournament is in the San Antonio area. In normal years, the top four regional seeds are entitled to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. This year, the entire tournament is all in one place, so there’s no home court advantage to be won. I know USF wants get over that hosting hump, but it’s less important than usual this year. (USF did host as a #6 seed in 2015, but that was because #3 seed Louisville had an arena conflict.)
By the same token, USF wouldn’t be at a disadvantage in a 5 vs 4 game, if it comes to that. Unless it’s against Texas, and the NCAA lets the Longhorns plays at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, which hosts some early round games. Which is totally something that would happen to USF.
Other teams in USF’s position are also being affected by missed games. USF has missed a month’s worth of games due to COVID, but so has another elite team. Michigan, which is right next to USF in the poll at #11, had a three-week layoff. Michigan was not in the NCAA’s top sixteen seeds, even though ESPN’s WBB bracketologist Charlie Creme predicted them being in the top twelve.
Yes, it’s bad for USF that missing games apparently affects their seeding. NCAA selection committee chair Nina King flat-out said this, when talking about Michigan and USF in this video. So at least we’re not being singled out for it. So far.
The gap of missing games will close. USF has played twelve games going into tonight. Everyone else in the top 25, except Michigan (and #26 Rutgers), has played 15-20 games. USF will eventually play two of those games, in addition to the four most teams will play. That puts USF at 18 games while everyone else is at 19-24. Conference tournament week may help narrow this gap further. So USF will have a much more comparable resume than they do now.
USF didn’t miss any important games. The missed game against Central Florida, the clear #2 in the AAC and an NCAA bubble team, was promptly rescheduled. The Cincinnati game is tonight, replacing SMU, who cancelled their season. The other missed opponents are Wichita State (1-7 in AAC play), East Carolina (4-8), Memphis (2-7), and Temple (8-5). This was the easy stretch of USF’s schedule. The team didn’t even miss any games against third- and fourth-place teams Tulane and Houston. The timing worked out great, which is good because:
USF’s resume is getting a bit thin... but not due to missed games. Baylor and Mississippi State, USF’s two biggest opponents, aren’t quite as mighty as they looked at the time. Baylor got under-seeded by the NCAA at #10 overall, but they do have two losses now. Mississippi State has lost four SEC games in a row and is now facing some cancelled games.
The AAC games USF has played so far have mostly been against the weaker teams. They have beaten Houston (#53 in the NET rankings) and Tulane away (#61, which counts as a Quadrant 1 win), but that’s it. UCF is #45, but USF hasn’t played them yet. No one else in the league is even above #149. USF is #15.
After tonight, four of USF’s five remaining games are against that group. If the conference tournament is played - which must be decided by February 26 - then the potential for two more such games in the conference semi-finals and finals arises. USF’s body of work could look a lot better then, and be more worthy of the top four seed we all want.
P.S. Not being taken to overtime at home by 4-13 Cincinnati would help too.