At halftime of the Thursday Showcase game between No. 6 Tennessee and No. 5 Notre Dame (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET), the NCAA Division I women's basketball committee will unveil its current top 16 teams in seed order, as well as the top four teams in each region.
This is the third consecutive season in which the committee has given us a peak behind the curtain, and the reveals have added intrigue, insight and interest to the process of selecting the NCAA tournament field. They have been a boost to the women's game.
Selection Monday is still nearly two months away, so Thursday's reveal might look only vaguely familiar to the final top 16 when the 64-team field is unveiled March 12. But Thursday, there are still clues to look for, questions to be answered and conclusions to be drawn.
Here are a few:
Top 13 seem pretty set
Connecticut, Mississippi State, Louisville, Baylor, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio State, Florida State, UCLA, South Carolina and Missouri should make up the top 13 in an order similar to this. That's how they line up on the S-curve ranking for this week's Bracketology update.
The big question is who the next three teams will be.
Rutgers, Duke and Michigan round out the top 16 in this week's bracket. Georgia, Texas A&M, Maryland, Marquette and Cal are the other contenders, and which teams the committee picks might indicate how its thinking might be applied going forward. For instance, the Terrapins' overall season is probably top-16 worthy, but they haven't looked the same since the season-ending injury to Blair Watson. Where Maryland lands is a good indicator of how this committee sees résumé versus recent injury.
The Wolverines and Lady Dogs are the hottest of all the teams listed. But Texas A&M, Duke, Cal and Marquette have better RPI and/or SOS numbers.
Where will South Carolina land?
The notion that the Gamecocks would be viewed as a No. 3 or No. 4 seed at this juncture didn't seem conceivable a month ago. Injuries and some inconsistent offense have set South Carolina back a bit, with losses in two of its past three games. A'ja Wilson's injured ankle, which forced her out of the Tennessee loss and is expected to sideline her Thursday against Vanderbilt, is another question mark. Where the Gamecocks land should tell us how the committee has viewed the up-and-down past three weeks in Columbia.
Is Baylor the fourth No. 1 seed?
The Lady Bears' only loss was suffered without their coach and second-leading scorer on the road against a good UCLA team. They have otherwise been devastating, and it's hard to imagine Baylor not being a No. 1 seed along with UConn, Louisville and Mississippi State. However, an RPI of 18 and a less-than-appealing nonconference SOS -- thanks to four games against teams outside the top 250 -- show some cracks in Baylor's résumé.
Who are the other contenders? Start with Oregon, which has lost just two games and came against No. 1 locks Louisville and Mississippi State.
Notre Dame is in the running, too. Only UConn has more top-50 wins than the Irish, who have five over top-25 RPI opponents. They were also good enough to hold an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead on the Huskies last month. The problem for Notre Dame is that Muffett McGraw seems to be holding her injury-riddled roster together with duct tape and super glue, and the 33-point loss at Louisville might still be very fresh in the minds of some committee members.
With just one loss, Tennessee should be in the conversation. But that lone loss came more recently than Baylor's, and though it's strange to write, the Lady Vols' overall strength of schedule might not be worthy of a No. 1 seed. And if it isn't Baylor, it's hard to argue for Tennessee in its place.
What to make of Rutgers
The pollsters haven't quite warmed up to the Scarlet Knights, who are ranked 25th in this week's AP rankings. But the résumé is hard to argue: No. 10 in the RPI, six top-50 wins, a top-25 overall schedule and a 17-3 overall record.
The 33-point stinker against Purdue is tough to get around, but finding another hole is hard to do. Rutgers still registers as the biggest surprise of the season so far and the résumé as of today says C. Vivian Stringer has a top-16 team.