The Maneater

Breaking down the Bracketology: What last weekend’s SEC Tournament loss could spell for Missouri women’s basketball come tournament time

After a regular-season-ending loss and a brief appearance in the SEC Tournament, the Tigers may have played themselves out of hosting in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Amber Smith dribbles around a Mississippi State defender to get the ball to the paint.

At this past weekend’s SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee, Missouri women’s basketball put its chances of hosting games in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this year on the fringe after losing to No. 18 Georgia, 55-41.

The No. 16 Tigers, who finished the regular season 24-7 and 11-5 in conference play, are currently projected as a No. 5 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament in the latest version of Charlie Creme’s Bracketology after losing in the SEC Tournament in the second round.

The projection puts the team in the Lexington, Kentucky, region, starting its tournament journey in Palo Alto, California, against projected No. 12 seed Gonzaga.

While no longer a top-15 team and currently projected just outside of a top-16 seeding in the NCAA Tournament, it’s worth asking: Where will this team end up come selection Monday? And if they land a top-16 seed, what case was made?

Landing a No. 4 Seed

The possibility of Mizzou landing a seed that allows it to host is uncertain. After capping the regular season with a loss to No. 17 Texas A&M and ending SEC Tournament play with their second loss to Georgia this season, the Tigers’ momentum isn’t as hot as it was earlier this season.

However, the case for Missouri as a top-16 seed isn’t illogical. The Tigers finished the regular season with better winning percentages than three of the four currently projected No. 4 seeds. Stanford, Texas A&M and the North Carolina State Wolfpack all finished with worse records than the Tigers, and UGA and the Wolfpack currently sit lower in the AP Poll than Missouri.

Granted, this is all hypothetical. And while hypotheticals can be fun to deal with, they’re just that. Factors like quality wins, RPI, opponent winning percentage and opponents’ opponent winning percentage — yes, opponents’ opponent winning percentage — will all be factors come March 12. So for now, it’s much simpler to look at the smaller picture.

Palo Alto

Creme’s current projection has the Tigers sitting as the No. 5 seed in Northern California, pitted against a projected No. 12 seed Gonzaga in the first round of play.

The Bulldogs finished the regular season at 26-5 with just one conference loss. While the numbers are nice, the Zags didn’t have much in the way of tough opponents during the season.

Their best opponent, No. 23 Belmont, beat them 71-63 in November. As far as other potential opponents in that projection, No. 4 Stanford or No. 13 UC Davis are projected opponents for the second round.

College Station

If seeded at No. 5 in College Station, Creme would have Mizzou taking on Belmont, which is currently slotted in the No. 12 seed.

The Bruins are at 57 in RPI after a 31-3 regular-season finish. Belmont’s three regular-season losses came at the hands of Oklahoma, Stanford and Wright State.

The Tigers are projected to face No. 13 South Dakota or No. 4 Texas A&M if they make it to the second round. Texas A&M beat the Tigers 82-63 in their one meeting this season.

Raleigh

In Raleigh, Creme’s projection would pit Mizzou against Mercer, a team that’s ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll. Mercer finished the regular season with only two losses, both to opponents Mizzou has lost to this season: Georgia and Western Kentucky.

From there, the Tigers would play either Drexel or the hosting team, North Carolina State. The Wolfpack are ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll and are 17th in RPI.

Athens

The final No. 5 seed projection would land Mizzou a first-round game against Princeton, a team that finished the regular season at 22-5, losing to its only ranked opponent, Villanova.

A win in the first round in Athens would set up a matchup with American or another rematch with Georgia, a team that’s beaten Mizzou twice this season.

With nothing certain at this point, it’s hard to tell what will come of Mizzou’s potential seeding in the NCAA Tournament, but the plethora of situations shows that this year’s tournament could be a tough road for the Tigers.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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