Nothing comes easy in the world of bracketology. Questions never go away. Uncertainty rules the day. All, of course, except Connecticut as a No. 1 seed.
This season something else is easy: the SEC.
From the first NCAA Division I women's basketball committee reveal in mid-January right up to this week's projection, the SEC has put six teams in the top 16. Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas A&M and Missouri are locks to hear their names on Selection Monday. After LSU's recent run that included victories over the Lady Vols and the Lady Dogs, evaluating the league and its NCAA tournament prospects got even easier.
The SEC will get seven teams in the field, with potentially six hosting first- and second-round games. But after the Lady Tigers, no other SEC team is even in the conversation to make the tournament. If Kentucky can't put together a winning streak, or if Alabama's slide continues, the other half of the league will have a difficult job reaching any postseason. From a bracketology standpoint, the SEC is the cleanest conference in the land.
That takes us to Big Monday's matchup (ESPN2, 7 ET) of the league's best team, unbeaten Mississippi State, and arguably its second-best team, defending national champion South Carolina. As big as the game is to how the next month in the SEC plays out, it has zero immediate impact on the look of the NCAA tournament field.
A loss by either team changes nothing. The Bulldogs would remain a No. 1 seed. The Gamecocks would still be a No. 2. Mississippi State can't go any higher, even with a convincing win, because UConn is in front of the Bulldogs. South Carolina, at most, would drop from the No. 7 overall team on the S-curve to No. 8. An upset in Starkville would move the Gamecocks past Oregon, but it would not allow them to crack the top five overall teams.
That has become the nature of the teams in the SEC. Their evaluation, placement and movement has largely been simple.
This isn't to say that one or even two teams in the group of Georgia, Texas &M and Missouri could eventually fall out of the top 16. But it's highly unlikely that all three will, which would all but assure that a quarter of the hosts for the opening rounds will be SEC teams.
LSU had been hovering around the bubble until its recent wins over Tennessee and Georgia. Now the Lady Tigers have elevated to the top 30 in the RPI and have a good chance to reach 11 conference wins. The bubble talk for LSU is over.
Missouri is the one SEC team slumping, losing three straight games -- all to good teams in Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina -- but the Tigers have a stretch of winnable games to get back on track. The Tigers just hung on to the 16th overall spot this week and have some teams threatening to overtake them, most notably Stanford.
The idea that the Cardinal could end up a host after leaving nonconference play at 6-6 seemed impossible, but now healthy with the roles of younger players more clearly defined, Stanford has elevated more in recent weeks than any other team in the country. On Jan. 1, the Cardinal were a No. 8 seed. This week they are a No. 5.
Winner of seven of its last eight after a huge sweep at the Oregon schools this weekend, Stanford has moved to the No. 17 overall position on the board. The Cardinal are now tied for the Pac-12 lead at 10-2 and are favored in all of their remaining regular-season games.
The Missouri-Texas A&M game to finish the SEC schedule could be a de facto play-in game for the top 16, thanks to the Stanford charge.