Consistency is the key word.
That's what fans and coaches want to see when anything is released by the NCAA Division I women's basketball committee, whether it's in-season reveals of the top seeds or the 64-team bracket in March.
And as the committee released its second reveal on Thursday -- Connecticut (Albany Region), Mississippi State (Kansas City Region, Louisville (Lexington Regional) and Notre Dame (Spokane Regional) are the No. 1 seeds -- consistent application of the criterion was evident -- for the most part.
There are always some areas that can be further examined, especially as the stakes get higher with just one month left in the regular season (all records and data through games as of Jan. 31).
Tennessee in, Ohio State out
Tennessee landed at No. 11, and the Lady Vols belong in the top 16 -- even if 11 might be a bit high. But things get interesting when Tennessee is compared to Ohio State, which was bounced from Thursday's top 16 after coming in at No. 10 in the first reveal on Jan. 18.
Both teams have struggled since, but the Lady Vols have had it worse, going 1-3 while the Buckeyes are 2-2. Tennessee has lost to better competition, but all of the losses were by double digits. Still, Ohio State's losses were also against NCAA tournament-caliber opponents, so the Lady Vols' inclusion and the Buckeyes' omission can't simply be a "what have you done for me lately" situation.
Ohio State (18-5) has one more win and one more loss than the Lady Vols (17-4), and better key numbers nearly across the board in RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), SOS (strength of schedule), nonconference SOS, top-50 wins and top-50 winning percentage.
Yet since the previous reveal the Buckeyes fell at least seven spots, while Tennessee fell six. Incorrect assessment? Maybe not. But certainly an interesting one.
Lady Vols vs. the rest of the SEC
The SEC once again has six teams in the top 16, and the Lady Vols being slotted ahead of three other SEC teams is also curious.
Tennessee trails Georgia and Texas A&M in the league standings, is tied with Missouri, and is 0-1 against the group, having lost at A&M. Only the Tigers, who have lost their past two games, could be considered as cold as the Lady Vols right now.
But Georgia is the biggest headscratcher. Perhaps it's splitting hairs because the Lady Dogs are No. 12, just one spot behind the Lady Vols, but they shouldn't be.
Georgia hasn't lost since the previous reveal, has won seven consecutive games and is just one game behind Mississippi State in the SEC. A good argument could be made that Mississippi State is the only team in the SEC better than Georgia right now.
So what gives? The most logical explanation is the Lady Dogs' somewhat weak nonconference schedule (ranked outside the top 100). That's fair enough, but then where's the consistency? If that's the number keeping Georgia behind Tennessee, shouldn't Ohio State's numbers put them far closer -- if not ahead -- of the Lady Vols?
Notre Dame at No. 1
While we maintain that Baylor is at least the fourth-best team in the country, the committee addressed this issue in its first reveal -- and the Fighting Irish as the fourth No. 1 seed isn't really worth quibbling about.
But remember that on the day of the first reveal (in which Notre Dame was No. 6), the Irish looked as if a No. 3 seed was more likely than a No. 1. A week prior they had been throttled by Louisville and, just minutes before the announcement of the initial top 16 teams, they fell behind Tennessee by 23 points in the first half at home. Then came the comeback for the ages, an 84-70 victory over the Lady Vols, and a Notre Dame rebirth.
Now the Irish are No. 1 in RPI, are the only team other than UConn with double-figure top-50 RPI wins, and haven't been challenged since that Tennessee win.
The big question is whether Notre Dame can hold onto the final No. 1 spot with Oregon and Baylor looming. Ultimately the answer will likely come down to conference tournament play, but in just measuring the rest of the regular season, this spot is Notre Dame's to lose.
Overall, the Ducks and Lady Bears might have slightly tougher schedules and better growth opportunity in the final month, but the Irish still have three games (Duke, Virginia and NC State) against top-30 competition (Duke and NC State are in the top 20), which is more than Baylor and equal to Oregon.
Even if the Ducks and Lady Bears win out, neither will have as many top-50 wins as Notre Dame has right now. So if the Irish also win out, they will head into conference tournament play with a sizeable lead over those two in top-50 wins. The committee has already indicated that would be a big deal. Notre Dame, through all its injuries and lineup shuffling, still has a high percentage chance of being a No. 1 seed if the committee stays consistent.