In a season in which the No. 1 ranking has been a revolving door, the latest debate is between defending national champion Baylor and South Carolina.
Last week, the Gamecocks took over the top spot in the AP Top 25, which is voted on by media members. The coaches' poll went with the Lady Bears. Split No. 1-ranked teams atop the polls last occurred in December 2016, when UConn topped one poll and Notre Dame the other. South Carolina, sixth in both polls at the time, went on to win the national championship.
So which poll is right this time? Bracketology sides with the writers on this one. South Carolina was last week's overall No. 1 in Bracketology, and the Gamecocks remain there heading into their showdown with Mississippi State on Big Monday (ESPN2/ESPN App, 7 ET).
When it comes to the metrics and applicable data to the selection and seeding process, South Carolina is actually the obvious choice. A 17-1 record, the most wins in the country against the RPI top 50, a No. 3 RPI ranking (Baylor is No. 12), a string of dominant performances to start the SEC schedule and a notable head-to-head victory over the Lady Bears put the Gamecocks atop the list.
The voting coaches might be overlooking that 74-59 South Carolina win on Nov. 30 in St. Thomas because Baylor's best player, Lauren Cox, was out with a foot injury. And they might also be going off recent results on national television, when Baylor put in a convincing win over then-No. 1 UConn. Beating their subsequent three Big 12 opponents by an average of 43 points helps the Lady Bears' argument as well. The eye test does matter, and anyone watching Baylor these last two weeks could come away feeling the Lady Bears are the best team in the country.
South Carolina's eye test is as impressive, and the numbers more substantially back it up. The committee has and will look at the data in addition to watching those games. Today it would likely make South Carolina the No. 1 overall seed.
At this point both South Carolina and Baylor are No. 1 seeds, and because of their status at the two best teams in the country, regardless of order, they would have the luxury of playing in regionals close to home -- the Gamecocks in Greenville, South Carolina, and the Lady Bears in Dallas.
While South Carolina has the slight advantage now, hanging onto that top spot might be more difficult for the Gamecocks than it will be for Baylor to grab, even with that head-to-head win. The Lady Bears will be heavy favorites to finish their regular season without another loss. Only trips to West Virginia and Texas loom as anything mildly threatening, and Baylor just beat the Mountaineers by 40 points on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks, who start three freshmen, still have Monday's matchup with Mississippi State, a home date with Connecticut and games against Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Tennessee. If South Carolina holds off Baylor and someone from the Pac-12 like Oregon for the No. 1 overall seed, it will have earned it.
Over 40 minutes Monday, the Bulldogs could immediately take that away from South Carolina. They are knocking on the door for a No. 2 seed, but they lack a marquee win that would help them unseat 2-seeds Stanford, UCLA or Oregon State. Beating the Gamecocks would do the trick. A Mississippi State win would also shake up the entirety of the No. 1 seed line yet again and push Baylor to the top of the AP poll, which would give us a record-setting fifth different team atop the rankings this season.
The No. 1 seed line underwent one change this week as well. Oregon, after beating Stanford by 32 and Cal by 50, is back, bumping UConn to a No. 2 seed. The Ducks' impressive win over the Cardinal carried significant weight, especially after Stanford came back two days later to beat Oregon State. Of course, the Huskies have the opportunity to steal that spot right back when they host Oregon in two weeks.