North Carolina solidifies its spot in Bracketology

With recent victories against Notre Dame and NC State, North Carolina has shown that big wins help the résumé more than bad losses hurt when it comes to bracketology. Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP

Two weeks ago, North Carolina was 10-9 and an afterthought for the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels were a top-50 RPI team because of a difficult schedule and a couple of decent wins, but teams merely one game above .500 aren't typically in the mix for an at-large berth.

But after a four-game winning streak -- which includes a pair of key victories over top-10 teams -- North Carolina is solidly in the field. How did it turn around so fast? Big wins -- it's hard to get bigger than beating then-No. 1 Notre Dame and previously unbeaten NC State in an eight-day span -- are always going to help the résumé more than bad losses are going to hurt.

The Tar Heels (14-9) are the perfect example of a team taking advantage of its opportunities. Competitive losses against the Fighting Irish and Wolfpack probably would not have been enough given North Carolina's nine losses.

With the meat of their ACC schedule behind them, the Tar Heels have a chance to make their overall record resemble what tournament teams typically have, especially those in the Nos. 7 or 8 seed range, which is where North Carolina fell this week. The Tar Heels earned a No. 7 but had to be bumped to a No. 8 for procedural reasons.

Sunday's win over NC State should erase the belief that Notre Dame's loss to the Tar Heels a week earlier was a "bad" defeat for the Irish ... which leads to perhaps the most hotly debated topic in women's basketball this week.

Notre Dame versus UConn

Following the Huskies' loss to Louisville and the news that UConn would fall to a No. 2 seed in Bracketology, the overwhelming counterpoint went something like this: How can UConn be a No. 2 and Notre Dame a No. 1 when the Huskies lost only to a pair of other No. 1 seeds and beat Notre Dame, and the Irish lost to unranked North Carolina?

While the argument isn't without merit and is something to consider, the committee rarely, if ever, looks at one team versus another in its decision-making process. The voting on the No. 1 seeds would not come down to Notre Dame versus UConn. It's a vote among a handful of teams, and a number of different factors are considered. Not just losses. Not just head-to-head results.

So while head-to-head is one criterion, and should be important, it's hardly the only one. Notre Dame leads the nation in top-50 and top-25 RPI wins and has the best schedule (it must be noted that North Carolina has the second-rated schedule in the country). Remember, big wins matter more than unexpected losses hurt.

The perception of UConn also isn't meeting reality. Generally, the Huskies are near the top of the RPI rankings and carry one of the nation's toughest schedules -- all while going undefeated against it. None of those things are true this season. Yes, their losses have been to elite teams, but the overall quality wins aren't there like in years past. UConn's five top-50 wins are fewer than all the teams currently on the No. 1 seed line, and better only than NC State's three among teams on the 2-line. UConn's RPI of 6 and strength of schedule ranking of 23 are by far the lowest for the Huskies during this run of dominance.

And that doesn't account for how the Irish and Huskies are playing right now. In Notre Dame's loss to North Carolina, the Irish were missing Jackie Young, an important factor to consider, especially since the Irish have blown out two top-50 teams (Clemson, Georgia Tech) since her return from that one-game absence. Meanwhile, UConn struggled in the second half against Louisville and then survived against Cincinnati on Saturday.

The term "eye test" tends to be overused, but committee members also watch a ton of games. Watching right now should tell anyone that Notre Dame is better.

Texas and Missouri

Perception not meeting reality is also a good way to describe the Longhorns and Tigers. Texas is 18-4 and continues to be ranked in the top 15 in both major polls. But the Longhorns have produced little of substance. With one win in only two games against top-50 RPI competition, the tournament résumé is thin. The schedule hasn't been strong and the results aren't there. Of the teams Texas has beaten, the average RPI is 148.

The rankings suggest the Longhorns are in contention to host first- and second-round games as a top-16 seed. But the season they've put together does not paint the same picture. On Big Monday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) against Baylor in Austin, Texas has a chance to bolster the profile and reestablish itself as a contender to host first- and second-round games.

Missouri's lone top-50 win is over Auburn, which is No. 50. Mix in a loss to five-win Florida -- an offense that has scored more than 70 points only five times -- and a schedule that is just average and the Tigers are probably staring at an 8 or 9 seed. Missouri's résumé could use the boost it would get from beating Texas A&M this Thursday in Columbia.

Top 16 news

As it stands through Sunday's games, South Carolina has earned the right to host first- and second-round games. But due to men's NCAA tournament games being played at Colonial Life Arena, that won't be possible. South Carolina is working with the NCAA to see if hosting games elsewhere might be a possibility. At this point, nothing has been worked out, so for the purposes of Bracketology we will give hosting duties in South Carolina's sub-regional to the next highest seed. This week that team is Rutgers, which was bumped from the top 16 after its loss to Minnesota on Sunday.