After the big wins over Utah and Colorado just three weeks ago, Arizona women’s basketball had climbed into the top 16 seeds according to the NCAA selection committee. That would have meant getting to host the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. A three-game losing streak to end the season, and none of the projections have the No. 24 Wildcats sleeping in their own beds when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around.
The regular season losses to Oregon and Oregon State followed by the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal loss to UCLA have dropped UA to No. 27 in the NET. Those losses have also dropped Arizona to a No. 6 seed in the only bracket that has been updated since the Wildcats’ loss in their first Pac-12 tournament game.
ESPN’s Charlie Creme updates his bracket regularly during the conference tournaments. His last update was Mar. 5, after winners were crowned in several leagues across the country, including the Pac-12.
Arizona held steady in Creme’s latest bracket, landing in South Bend, Ind. as a No. 6 seed. The winner of the site would advance to play in Seattle, Wash. The rest of the teams in South Bend would be No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee, No. 14 seed Towson, and host No. 3 seed Notre Dame.
Creme would have the Wildcats opening against Middle Tennessee, which is currently ranked just behind Arizona at No. 25 in the Associated Press poll. The Blue Raiders have yet to play their conference tournament, but they are the presumed automatic qualifier from Conference USA. They will start their local postseason on Mar. 9.
Middle Tennessee has a dominant record in C-USA, going 18-2 in conference play this season. The games have not always been dominant, though. The Blue Raiders have had some challenges down the stretch, including both of its league losses and four single digit wins since the beginning of February.
CBS and Just Women’s Sports created their brackets prior to the Pac-12 tournament. Although JWS posted on Mar. 3, the text indicates that the projections were created before the Wildcats lost to Oregon State. While neither outlet does a full bracket with sites and matchup projections, they do project all 68 teams.
One thing of note in all the projections is that Arizona’s out-of-conference strength of schedule took a hit as the season wore on. Kansas, which defeated the Wildcats in McKale Center in early December, is one of the last teams in the field according to both ESPN and CBS. Baylor, which was Arizona’s signature win outside the Pac-12, is also a relatively weakly-seeded team in both projections.
The Wildcats get a big boost in strength of schedule simply by playing in the Pac-12. Despite the weak schedule outside the league, Arizona ended with the 23rd-ranked schedule.