Almost immediately after the women's NCAA selection committee announced Arkansas, Auburn, Indiana, Ohio, Princeton, Tennessee, TCU and UCF as the official bubble teams, Princeton captured the Ivy League's automatic bid by winning the tournament title. The Tigers took themselves off the at-large board, turning the NCAA's "debatable eight" into the "so close seven" within minutes.
So which bubble teams should expect to hear their names called on Monday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)?
Going off the list provided by the committee Sunday, Indiana, UCF, Tennessee and Auburn should be the last four teams to make the field. Indiana has more top-50 wins (five) than anyone else on the list. UCF's RPI historically has resulted in an at-large invitation. Tennessee has four wins over other teams in the at-large pool. And Auburn's profile is better than those of TCU, Arkansas and Ohio.
The fact that Princeton was being discussed for at-large consideration provides some insight into what the committee is thinking just 24 hours before the NCAA bracket is unveiled, but the Tigers' seed will perhaps be slightly better than anticipated. Entering the day, Princeton was projected to be a No. 12 seed in bracketology, but an at-large team would warrant no worse than an 11-seed. If the Tigers were going to be an at-large choice, they would have fallen a seed line. Now they will be seeded with a conference title and automatic bid in hand.
Now that we know the teams Tennessee is competing with for an at-large bid, the Lady Vols' record of playing in every women's NCAA tournament since it began in 1982 should remain intact. Sure, there are holes in the résumé, but the Lady Vols (19-12) have four wins over teams being considered for at-large status in this field. Among the debatable eight, only Indiana can also make that claim. Auburn has three (but Tennessee beat the Tigers twice), and TCU, Arkansas and Ohio each have two.
UCF has been the most unique team in the mix all season long. The Knights have an RPI of 15 -- and not much else. They're an anomaly within the RPI rankings, and that's why the committee included them on Sunday's list. Still, it would be unprecedented to leave out a team with that high of an RPI. And if the Knights are one of the last four teams in, their seed will likely be the worst for a team with such an RPI in history.
A case could be made for excluding UCF, but the committee's past decisions and the history with the RPI suggest that's unlikely. Just last year, Oklahoma -- which at the time was No. 35 in the RPI, had the No. 2 strength of schedule (SOS) and a 16-14 record -- was rewarded with a bid solely based on the schedule it played. Since schedule makes up 75 percent of the RPI -- and UCF's RPI is so strong -- the Knights are likely to squeak in.
Auburn has wins over Missouri and North Carolina, victories that are better than anything TCU has. The Tigers' RPI is 17 spots higher than Arkansas', and Auburn boasts a head-to-head win.
That leaves Ohio, TCU and Arkansas as the teams likely left out.
Before the SEC tournament, Arkansas was not being considered for an at-large bid. The Razorbacks lost eight of nine games to close the regular season -- but then beat two NCAA tournament-caliber teams in Greenville. Beating South Carolina and Texas A&M merits attention, but it shouldn't get Arkansas into the field.
TCU's nonconference SOS was 266. The Horned Frogs had only two top-50 wins, and no wins outside the Big 12 inside the top 100.
Ohio has a 35 RPI, and the Bobcats beat only two teams considered tournament-worthy -- and both were in their conference. They had a nonconference SOS of 270, and their best win outside the MAC was Lamar.