Why are your coworkers yelling about brackets? Well, for those who want to join in on the “madness,” here’s your full-court explanation on getting in on the action.
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Baylor, Notre Dame, Mississippi State and Louisville earned No. 1 seeds in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, leaving national power Connecticut off the tournament’s top line after ending the regular season ranked No. 2 in the Coaches Poll.
Baylor (31-1), winners of 23 games in a row, will headline the Greensboro Region and face off in the first round against No. 16 Abilene Christian, which is making its NCAA tournament debut. Notre Dame (30-3) leads the Chicago Region ahead of No. 2 seed Stanford (28-4), which extended its tournament streak to 32 years.
Mississippi State (30-2), the national runner-up in each of the past two years, is in the Portland Region opposite No. 2 Oregon (29-4), the Pac-12 regular-season champions.
In a surprise, the top four seeds do not include UConn (31-2), which will enter the tournament as No. 2 seed in the Albany Region, one slot below Louisville (29-3). The Albany Region also includes No. 11 seed Tennessee, which maintained its streak of reaching every NCAA tournament since the event began in 1982.
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The Huskies have reached the tournament’s Sweet 16 every season since 1994 and the Final Four in each season since 2008. The program had been a No. 1 seed in each tournament since 2007. UConn won four championships in a row from 2013-16 and has won 11 national titles overall under longtime coach Geno Auriemma. Both of the team’s losses this season came against No. 1 seeds — to Baylor and Louisville, each time on the road.
“The things that we looked at with Louisville that were very strong were their RPI and strength of schedule,” said Rhonda Lundin Bennett, chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee. “They had a lot of very significant wins.”
Louisville’s was third in the final RPI rankings of the regular season, behind Notre Dame and Baylor, while UConn was ranked sixth.
“We felt that it came down strength of schedule, strength of conference, as well as how they were playing down the stretch,” Bennett said in an interview with ESPN.
Still, “UConn was definitely someone that we were considering for that No. 1 line.”
It wasn’t the only controversial moment involved in the bracket’s release: Earlier on Monday, ESPN inadvertently posted the full bracket on ESPNU, forcing the network to move its selection show up two hours, from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET.
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“We deeply regret the error and extend our apology to the NCAA and the women’s basketball community,” the network said in a statement. “We will conduct a thorough review of our process to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.”