Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)
RALEIGH, N.C. – While First Four and First and Second-round play in the Bridgeport Region of the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament begins on Thursday at Reynolds Coliseum, the local talk of the tournament bracket set-up has not slowed.
Particularly so among NC State fans and supporters.
What’s the big uproar about you ask?
Well, it seems that many have the opinion that the Tournament Selection Committee dealt the No. 1 seeded Wolfpack an unfair draw.
The general feeling among handfuls serving up the apparent egregious act for many rabid Wolfpack fans to feast on via social media outlets like Twitter, was that by not getting selected to head up the Greensboro Region (that spot was awarded rightly so to the South Carolina Gamecocks) the Wolfpack’s selection to play in Connecticut was an unfair one.
You see, the No. 2 seeded UConn Huskies were also placed in that region, which in many peoples opinions provides too much of a home-court advantage for the 11-time NCAA champions.
Oh, and by the way, they are 11-1 in NCAA Tournament play at Total Mortgage Arena.
So, fair enough.
However, was NC State really dealt that serious a blow as the second overall No. 1 seed?
A look at the numbers, the NET rankings specifically, shows that isn’t necessarily the case.
First off, both teams have to make it to Bridgeport.
Thus, for the Wolfpack, hypothetically assuming that they will advance through the opening First and Second rounds and then past the Sweet 16 which a Wes Moore-led squad has not done – yet.
And for the sake of this broad analysis, doing so by facing and beating the higher seed in each related matchup leading up to the ‘big one’ with UConn, here is the comparison to make with the other No. 1 seeds – South Carolina, Stanford, and Louisville.
The listings below show each region with the Net Ranking for each No. 1 seed and the hypothetical best seeded team to beat along the way and progress to their Elite 8 matchups.
Again, this is assuming all No. 1 seeds make it to face their No. 2 regional counterparts.
Obviously the Gamecocks have the overall advantage in looking at each opponent’s Net Ranking that they would face – ranging from #247 (Howard) to #13 (Iowa) – in the Greensboro Region.
Next comes NC State, facing either #198 (Longwood) or #244 (Mount St. Mary’s) all the way to #4 (UConn) to get to Bridgeport.
Then Louisville will need to progress from facing #178 (U Albany) to #6 (Baylor) in Wichita.
And to cap it off, Stanford will begin its title defense against #164 (Montana State) and need to go through #8 Texas in Spokane for another chance to hoist the trophy in successive seasons.
Numbers don’t lie
From the macro view, it looks pretty methodical and not so lopsided as many have set the narrative to be.
Some have pointed out as well that the committee didn’t follow its criteria since NC State is in a region with numerous teams that it already played this season, and beat by the way, with the exception of Notre Dame.
A match-up with Washington State would be an example of that, but the Wolfpack beat the Cougars (62-34) and at least have prior knowledge of playing such an out-of-conference foe during the season, which many rarely have the benefit of doing in Tournament play.
So, how much of a disadvantage is that really?
And if we’re talking about home court advantage in Regional Championship play, sure #2 UConn is closer to Bridgeport (73 miles away) than NC State is (564 miles away).
But #2 Baylor is closer to Wichita than Louisville is – 447 miles compared to 703 miles away.
Do the Bears have a leg up on the Cardinals if their fans travel better?
Then we start splitting hairs in the argument about the numbers and advantages and disadvantages everyone has, and we still haven’t even tipped off yet!
Embrace the grind
Sure, keep the narrative, interest and discussion going amongst Wolfpack fans and supporters.
But it is a faulty one – with some truth in it, but also some numerical justification, including the current and future impact of what an NC State-UConn Regional Final will entail.
One, Total Mortgage Arena will be packed – yes with many Huskies faithful, but if Wolfpack Nation has anything to do with it, there will be a pretty deep sea of red there too.
Exactly what the likely reasoning behind the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s choice to put NC State there rather than South Carolina or even Louisville for that matter.
The Gamecocks will do the same as the feature act in Greensboro, while the Cardinals will work to do the same in the Midwest, and Stanford in the West.
Plus, for Triangle-area Wolfpack fans watching on TV, a Wolfpack-Huskies matchup will only fuel and stoke the fire for the upcoming home-and-home series that they have for the upcoming 2022-2023 and 2023 -2024 regular seasons.
There had to be some reasoning and method applied to create this March Madness after all, right?
NCAA WBB – Top Seeds and projected higher-ranked opponents
Net Rankings (#); (miles from Regional site); (closest to Regional site)
#2 NC State (564 miles)
#244 Mt. St. Mary’s
#58 Washington St.
#4 UConn (78 miles)
#1 South Carolina (189 miles)
#13 Iowa (886 miles)
#5 Louisville (703 miles)
#6 Baylor (447 miles)
#3 Stanford (908 miles)
#164 Montana St
#8 Texas (1988 miles)
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