With so many games that would impact the bracket being played at the same time, Sunday was a workout for the remote control.
Florida State takes a lead on Virginia ... change the channel. Duke makes a run at North Carolina ... change the channel. Purdue jumps all over Nebraska at the start ... change the channel. Florida keeps pushing Texas A&M ... change the channel. Odyssey Sims leaves the game against West Virginia ... change the channel. Tennessee starts to pull away from South Carolina ... change the channel ... change the batteries.
Once it was all said and done, this is what an enormous Sunday, the regular-season finale for many, meant:
Virginia at Florida State: The Seminoles saved their spot in the field with a 12-point win that was a two-point deficit at halftime. Natasha Howard had 33 points and 11 rebounds and Cheetah Delgado had 11 assists, breaking the single-season school record in the process, on their senior day. Florida State still can't afford to bow out early in the ACC tournament.
Duke at North Carolina: For the second time this season, the Tar Heels beat the Blue Devils. It marked North Carolina's first sweep in the series since 2008, and looked to confirm that the injuries have caught up to Duke. The Blue Devils' No. 2 seed has slipped away. The résumé is still one of the three or four best in the country, but as Sunday illustrated, this isn't the same team that built that résumé. Three point guards are down, two of whom are All-American quality, and now Tricia Liston, playing out of position at the point, is even ailing.
Nebraska at Purdue: The Boilermakers aren't the best team in the Big Ten -- in fact, they will be the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament -- but they are the hottest. The blowout of the Cornhuskers, just six days after Nebraska did the same to Penn State, was as astonishing as it was decisive. Purdue still hasn't lost since losing KK Houser (although she played 2½ minutes in Purdue's senior day) and is in position for a top-four NCAA tournament seed, especially since the Big Ten tournament is the two-time defending champion Boilermakers' specialty.
As a side note, another Big Ten team, Iowa, this week exemplified what only can best be described as the quirkiness of bracketing. The Hawkeyes moved down only one spot on the overall S-curve from 20 to 21 (and it was only because others jumped up with better weeks), yet still managed to slip from a No. 5 seed to a No. 7. That is sure to raise an eyebrow, but it's explainable. No. 20 on the overall board represents a No. 5 seed. No. 21 equates a No. 6 (yes, it is that subtle). Because Iowa is a host school and could not be paired with any of the No. 3 seeds in a sub-regional because they, too, were all hosts -- Duke, Maryland, Penn State and Texas A&M -- the Hawkeyes had to be moved a seed line as a procedural bump. Hence, Iowa became a No. 7 seed.
West Virginia at Baylor: The Mountaineers were knocking on the door for a No. 2 seed for a week. The breakthrough came with a win in Waco on Sunday. Despite some horrendous free throw shooting, West Virginia came back yet again for its biggest win of the season, fueled by the biggest play in the Big 12 this year -- Averee Fields' steal of an Odyssey Sims pass and subsequent three-point play. It moved the Mountaineers past Duke as the final No. 2 seed.
South Carolina at Tennessee: The Lady Vols played their best game of the season. That, combined with Duke's slip and West Virginia's upset of Baylor, assured Tennessee of not only hanging onto its No. 2 seed, but also advancing up the overall board to No. 6. Conversely, losing on the road to a top-10 team does not wipe out all the Gamecocks have accomplished; they remain a No. 1 seed. The profiles of South Carolina and Louisville are similar. The Gamecocks' tougher schedule and more quality wins separate the two slightly. South Carolina has had a more impressive season than the Cardinals to this point, but a Louisville upset of Connecticut on Monday night would immediately change that.
The last bit of interest from Sunday came in the bracketing, particularly that of the Mountaineers and Gamecocks. Both are slated in the latest bracket to potentially play on the home floor of their respective second-round opponents. Get ready for this because it is bound to happen. Here's the rationale behind it:
Notre Dame, South Carolina and West Virginia are the only teams among the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds that aren't protected by hosting the early rounds.
Toledo is the only geographically sensible sub-regional host site for those schools not already occupied by a team in the field.
LSU and Iowa State also fall in the seed range of being able to host any of these schools.
Because of their SEC affiliation, LSU and South Carolina cannot be paired together in Baton Rouge.
The committee also tries, but isn't mandated, to avoid having a team play true road game in consecutive years. Notre Dame and West Virginia both did it last season. But because Notre Dame had to play in Iowa in Iowa City last year as a No. 1 seed, and West Virginia played at Delaware as a No. 11, and because Notre Dame is also the higher seed this season, the Irish get the luxury of playing at the neutral Toledo, while West Virginia goes to Baton Rouge and South Carolina ends up in Ames.
That might seem confusing, but those are some of the processes the committee must go through to make the bracket work with all the rules in place.