Notre Dame held on to a No. 1 seed despite its loss to North Carolina. The Fighting Irish are not so fortunate after Thursday's loss to Miami.
The Hurricanes held the Irish's normally proficient offense in check in a 72-65 win. Even with Notre Dame's Jackie Young in the lineup -- the versatile junior missed the Jan. 27 game against the Tar Heels -- the Irish hit season lows for point total and shooting percentage (37.3).
Notre Dame remains the top-rated team in the RPI, but after a third loss, the Irish fall to a No. 2 seed.
The shake-up results in Baylor, Louisville, Oregon and UConn as No. 1 seeds. The Huskies return to the top line after being bumped a week ago following their loss at Louisville. It was the first time since 2007 that UConn wasn't projected as a No. 1 seed in bracketology.
Notre Dame's loss to Miami further complicates what has been the most difficult season of bracketology in recent memory. A lot of the debate at the top of the S-curve has focused on why Notre Dame remained a No. 1 seed after its loss to North Carolina when UConn wasn't afforded the same luxury. Now one of the trickier decisions in bracketology is whether UConn or Mississippi State should be the fourth No. 1 seed. And making that distinction is much more difficult than the UConn vs. Notre Dame decision of last week.
Through Thursday's games, the Huskies get the nod as the fourth No. 1 seed by the narrowest of margins -- and there will be plenty of disagreement on social media. The NCAA selection committee might in fact place the Bulldogs ahead of the Huskies on Monday when it releases its first top-16 midseason reveal.
The Bulldogs have one fewer loss than UConn and, like the Huskies (whose losses were to Baylor and Louisville), their defeat was against a No. 1 seed (Oregon). Both have the same number of top-25 RPI wins (two) and top-50 wins (five). Both are unbeaten and in first place of their respective conferences (yes, Mississippi State's SEC lead is more impressive than UConn's in the American). The slight difference, and why the Huskies get the nod, comes down to schedule strength. UConn's is better in both nonconference strength and overall, and the difference is significant enough at this stage of the season to push the Huskies ahead of the Bulldogs.
Here is how the top eight look following Thursday's games. NC State also dropped a seed line following its loss to Florida State. That's two straight losses by the Wolfpack, who are now a No. 3 seed.
No. 1 seeds: Baylor (Chicago), Louisville (Greensboro), Oregon (Portland), UConn (Albany)
No. 2 seeds: Mississippi State (Albany), Notre Dame (Portland), Stanford (Greensboro), Marquette (Chicago)
The geographical placement of these teams also becomes a bigger challenge for the committee. Ideally, having Notre Dame in Chicago would be far more fan-friendly and better for attendance, but the Irish are also no worse than No. 6 overall, and placing them in the same region as Baylor would create an imbalanced bracket.
Mississippi State fans should keep this in mind: Even as a No. 1 seed, the Bulldogs would have been bound for Albany with the way the other top seeds shake out. Whether Mississippi State is a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in this version of bracketology, UConn was going to be the other top team in the region.
Given the respective schedules of the two teams the rest of the way, it's possible (and perhaps likely) that Mississippi State will leapfrog the Huskies for a No. 1 seed. That could happen even with UConn winning the remainder of its games.
Thanks to Miami, the conversation has shifted yet again. And a compelling season just got even better.