The biggest game of the season to date produced yet another loss for a No. 1-ranked team. After its worst loss since 2007 and first stumble at home since 2013, UConn joined Oregon and Stanford as top-ranked teams to fall. Baylor's 74-58 win over the Huskies on Thursday night will create a change in next week's polls, but more immediately it shakes up the top line in this week's Bracketology.
UConn, which previously sat as the No. 2 overall team on the board, falls to No. 5 and a No. 2 seed, and the Lady Bears ascend to a No. 1 seed. These are the kinds of games that shape a season and make the biggest differences in the battle for the top seeds. Baylor grabbed tight to one of those spots Thursday.
Wins don't get any better or impactful than beating the No. 1-ranked team in the country -- in the AP Top 25 poll and in the RPI -- on the road, and doing so with an impressive display of balance and fourth-quarter dominance. The Lady Bears now have that No. 1 seed -- along with Oregon State, Oregon and South Carolina -- and they face a much easier path to the end of the regular season than any of those three teams. And it's possible Baylor just won the game that will earn the Lady Bears a top seed on Selection Monday.
Baylor, sans multiple stumbles in Big 12 play and a significant regression from the team it is today, will continue to have the upper hand on the Huskies, who still figure to be one of eight teams that can realistically contend for a top seed. The Lady Bears' only loss was to South Carolina on a neutral floor, and that loss can be forgiven because Lauren Cox was injured and didn't play. If Thursday's game is any indication, Cox isn't completely herself after missing most of November and December with a foot injury, but she's getting closer quickly.
The geographical implications of Thursday's loss weren't nearly as big. Baylor was in Dallas last week as the No. 2 seed and remains there as the No. 1. Because Waco is only 100 miles from the Moody Coliseum where the regional is being played -- and is thus a bus ride -- expect that to be where the Lady Bears end up playing in the NCAA tournament's second weekend. UConn stayed in the same region as well, but in Fort Wayne. With no Bridgeport or Albany this year, the Huskies will be in unfamiliar surroundings in the regionals regardless of seed. But falling to the No. 2 line also meant that UConn is aligned with Oregon as the No. 1. This part is going to be very fluid the next two months with the Ducks, Oregon State, Stanford and even UCLA battling for being the No. 1 seed in the Portland Regional. Three of the four will likely end up in other regions. As of today, that puts Oregon and the Huskies together, meaning it's possible their Feb. 3 game in Storrs could serve as a regional final preview.
Other than potentially being saddled with the Ducks in the same region, the loss isn't quite as impactful for UConn because the Huskies still have Oregon and South Carolina on their schedule. Wins in those two games and UConn could be right back to a No. 1 seed. Even a pair of losses likely wouldn't be enough to knock UConn from a No. 2 seed.
A separation is beginning to form between the top eight teams in the country and the teams just below that marker. Much of that has to do with what else happened Thursday.
The Wolfpack joined UConn as another team to lose for the first time Thursday -- and they fell to a team that didn't have a significant win to this point. A second-half offensive collapse and an uncharacteristically poor night on the boards turned a 10-point halftime lead into a 66-60 loss for NC State. The result didn't cost the Wolfpack their status as a No. 3 seed, but they were knocking on the door to move up to a No. 2. NC State is now closer to a No. 4.
With four top-50 RPI wins, the Seminoles looked like a team ready to take that next step, and a No. 2 seed could have become a reality if UCLA or Stanford provided an opening. Then Florida State lost two of its past three games. Thursday's 15-point home loss to the Yellow Jackets was stunning in that Florida State never led and committed 21 turnovers. Georgia Tech under coach Nell Fortner has been one of the season's biggest surprises. But if the Seminoles are going to win the ACC and be a No. 2 seed, these are games they can't lose.
This was Thursday's most shocking upset, even though Aggies star guard Chennedy Carter missed the second half with an ankle injury. The Tigers were coming off a loss to the SEC's worst team in Missouri, and the Aggies, playing at home, were cruising with nine straight wins. Last week they were No. 10 overall on the Bracketology board. Now Texas A&M is No. 15. Like NC State and Florida State, the Aggies were pushing to move up to the No. 2 line two days ago. A loss like this means that hosting NCAA tournament games is now in jeopardy and another loss next Thursday at Kentucky could knock them out of the top 16.
A preseason top-five team and contender for a No. 1 seed, the Terrapins have become the game's biggest head-scratcher. A second-half rally saved a solid win against Ohio State on Monday, but other than a third-quarter push Thursday in Iowa City, Maryland was thoroughly outplayed by the Hawkeyes. That's the second Big Ten loss in 10 days for the Terps, who are no longer a threat to be a No. 2 seed and shouldn't be considered a top-20 team at this point. Their seed status (a No. 7 this week) now could mean significant travel on the tournament's opening weekend and a difficult first-round opponent.