- Charlie Creme, Women's College Basketball
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There is no shame in losing to No. 2 Notre Dame. However, Duke and its status in the bracket need to be re-evaluated after the Blue Devils got blown out at home by the Irish three days after needing a late comeback to edge an improved but inferior Miami team.
When trying to delineate the small differences among some of the nation's best teams, margin of victory or a defeat in a small window of evaluation have to be taken into consideration -- and that has led to a shift in this week's bracket. Louisville, with just one loss and dominant presence in the American Athletic Conference, slides into the No. 4 overall spot and thus, the final No. 1 seed. Duke slips to the No. 2 line.
Of course, that has a small ripple effect. With the Cardinals as a top seed and also serving as a regional host -- remember, this year the school hosting the regional has to be placed there; in recent years, they were forbidden to be placed in their home region -- another No. 1 seed, Connecticut, had to be moved. So UConn ends up as the top seed in the Lincoln Regional.
Some changes are taking place with the teams at the opposite end of the selection process, too. The teams on the right side of the bubble have shifted. A few moved the wrong way and might have played their way out of the tournament for good.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have made a habit in recent seasons of not quite being able to topple the traditional powers, but also not losing games they shouldn't. This season was shaping up that way until Thursday's home loss to Clemson. With no top-50 wins and a nonconference schedule that, while not terrible, doesn't offer much, either, Georgia Tech can't afford losses outside the top 100. The lights aren't completely out in Atlanta, but the Yellow Jackets might need a win over North Carolina, Maryland or Notre Dame to prove their worthiness. At this point, it is now easier to say no than yes to Georgia Tech.
Indiana: The Hoosiers started the season ablaze with 14 straight wins. For a young team trying to establish some confidence, that's a great beginning. Unfortunately, only one of those wins came against top-100 competition. As soon as Indiana got into the meat of its Big Ten schedule, the wheels came off, reinforcing that the early success might have been more about the opponents than the Hoosiers. Six losses in seven games knocked Indiana out of last week's bracket, and the prognosis for getting back in isn't good.
Southern California: It's funny what Stanford can do to a team. The Trojans were zipping through the Pac-12 in second place with just one loss. They were viewed as one of the more improved teams in the country. Then USC went to Maples last Monday night and got run out of the gym. On the heels of that loss, Washington State and Washington went to L.A. and won. The Trojans could not recover from what the Cardinal did and are now on a three-game skid they can't afford. The 7-1 conference start was the biggest highlight on the résumé. Three straight losses bring to light a rather pedestrian nonconference performance and sink USC to the wrong side of the bubble.
San Diego: It typically takes a special conference record and an upset or two in nonconference play for non-BCS teams to receive an at-large bid. The Toreros and their gaudy RPI fit the profile. That is, they did until this past weekend. After consecutive losses, the conference record can no longer be special. In fact, let's throw Saint Mary's into this as well. The Gaels were one of the teams to beat San Diego, but each lost to sub-.500 Pacific (counting Division I opponents only), the kind of loss that can't happen when the margin for error is so thin. The idea of three teams for the WCC making the field was always highly unlikely, but now, unless Gonzaga loses in the conference tournament, multiple bids at all appears to be a long shot.
Michigan: Despite suspect RPI and SOS rankings, there was clamoring that the Wolverines should be getting stronger consideration for the field from yours truly. Two blowout losses to Nebraska and Minnesota later, that conversation is over. With just one nonconference win in the RPI top 50 and a loss outside the top 100, Michigan needed to excel in the Big Ten. Without running the table, that is not going to happen now.
18dBonnie D. Ford