Q: Why aren’t teams seeded?
A: The WNIT field is selected after the NCAA tournament first confirms the 64 teams playing in that event. The WNIT uses a broad range of rankings systems and also considers factors like how a team is currently playing and injury concerns. In the end, 32 spots go to automatic qualifiers (teams with the highest regular-season finish in their conference that are not playing in the NCAA Tournament), with the other berths going, as determined by the WNIT selection committee, to the strongest remaining teams.
The 64 teams in the WNIT are then placed in tiers, and those tiers are used to construct the brackets. In general, first-round games will have middle-tier teams facing each other, while top- tier teams face bottom-tier teams. Adjustments are commonly made, however, to make sure there are no rematches from the regular season, and that teams from the same conference do not play each other in Round 1, and ideally, Round 2. The big-picture goal is to evenly distribute team strength throughout the bracket.
Other factors affecting the brackets are school days being missed, facility access, locations of teams, travel and lodging constraints, availability to host, and other issues. With all the variables teams must navigate, the WNIT has found no real point in generating a seeding for each team, because it often does not hold true with all of the factors that can affect the bracket.
Q: Why is my team not playing a home game in Round 1? We have a better record!
A: The WNIT is almost 100 percent of the time a “breaking news” development for college programs, which means access to the school’s arena may be limited. There could be other events already booked; the men’s NCAA Tournament may also complicate access. WNIT officials also have to consider the fan base of each potential host school, and the ability for visiting teams to get to the site in timely fashion. Keep in mind that some schools simply can’t or won’t devote resources needed to properly host a postseason contest. One of the WNIT’s goals is to help teams build their programs with their community, and WNIT games can be a great vehicle for getting a new fan base engaged in women’s college basketball.