Women’s bracket winners, losers and South Carolina’s path to a perfect season
By all accounts, this women’s college basketball season, the best hope of making it to the women’s Final Four is not to face defending champion South Carolina before then.
With the release of the 2023 NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket on Sunday, which is switching to two regionals instead of four this year, the road to Dallas is open. The undefeated Gamecocks, as has been virtually set in stone throughout the season, are in first place overall and will not need to leave their state to qualify for the program’s fifth Final Four. Dallas is also where the Gamecocks won their first national championship in 2017.
South Carolina, Stanford and UCLA have made the Final Four in the last two seasons. For the 11-time Husky champion, that streak dates back to 2008. But the two No. 1 seeds on the right side of the bracket – Indiana and Virginia Tech – have never been this far in the women’s tournament. History can be made in March of this year.
Here’s a look at who will try to stop the Gamecocks run and complete their perfect season, as well as the biggest winners and losers in the bracket.
Brackets are open! Head to Women’s Tournament Challenge And fill in the bracket Now! AND Click here for the printed bracket.
What’s the South Carolina way to Dallas?
No one is discussing Gamecocks as the top seed and favorite. There’s no suspense because South Carolina hasn’t opened the door for anyone else. Gamecocks’ next challenges were two overtime games, one expected and one not.
Back on November 20, no one was surprised to see South Carolina go into overtime at Stanford as they are two past national champions. The Gamecocks won 76–71 and then also had clear wins over UCLA and UConn in regulation. South Carolina’s other OT win was a big surprise as the Gamecocks took the win by seven points at Ole Miss on February 19th. When the Gamecocks played Ole Miss again in the SEC tournament, they won by 29.
Having a superstar like Alia Boston and talented and experienced depth means that catching South Carolina on a bad day/night is a very slim opportunity.
The Gamecocks, who play the opening rounds at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, start at No. 16 in Norfolk State. Only one 16-seeded player turned the No. 1 seed in NCAA women’s tournament history on its head—Harvard vs. Stanford in 1998—and it won’t happen again here.
The second round can be interesting. South Carolina will face the winner of the South Florida-Marquette game. South Florida won the American Athletic Conference regular season title and has some good non-conference victories over Texas and Alabama. But the Bulls got upset in the first round of the American tournament, which came as a surprise.
Marquette has good wins over UConn, Texas and Gonzaga. Will South Carolina make it through the first rounds? Yes, but either the Bulls or the Golden Eagles could create some problems.
Sweet 16 in Greenville, South Carolina, about 100 miles from the Gamecocks campus, could have a rematch with UCLA, who lost 73-64 in South Carolina on November 29th. -12, defeating top-seeded Arizona and Stanford before losing to Washington State in the final. Exciting freshman Kiki Rice is a UCLA player to watch. However, look out for #5 in Oklahoma as well. He is the co-champion of the Big 12 regular season and could take on UCLA if they meet in the second round.
If South Carolina makes it to the Elite Eight, the teams they could face will include No. 2 seed Maryland and No. 3 Notre Dame. The Turps were no match for South Carolina when they met in College Park, Maryland on November 11, losing 81-56. But this early version doesn’t look much like the team that Maryland has become. The Terps have only lost three times since the calendar moved to 2023, and two of those have been from Big Ten Tournament champion Iowa.
Notre Dame won the ACC regular season title, but uncertainty over star quarterback Olivia Miles’ status due to injury leaves the Irish in question, especially since they’re in the same early round bracket as last year’s No. 1 giant killer. Creighton. Last year, after finishing in 10th place, the Bluejays made it to the Elite Eight.
Should we see South Carolina in the Final Four for the third year in a row? Yes, especially since the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville is their home away from home. But there is enough talent in their region to make Gamecocks work for it.
Tennessee Lady Volunteers
Seed: No. 4 Seattle 3 Regionally
Tennessee has lost 11 games, more than any of the top 16 seeds. But a busy schedule with many high-profile opponents helped them in the eyes of the committee – despite the fact that they didn’t actually win any of those big games until they beat then-No. 4th LSU 69-67 in SEC Tournament Semifinals. Tennessee have lost five of their last 12 matches, but lost two to South Carolina, including in the SEC Tournament Finals. Tennessee made it into the top 16 in the NET rankings but lost to Iowa State, who won the Big 12 tournament but finished 5th in the region.
For the past two months, Tennessee has grumbled that the SEC is underestimated, but the Lady Vols have nothing to complain about with this seed. This gives senior stars Jordan Horston and Ricky Jackson the chance to move to the Sweet 16 in front of their fans in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Seed: No. 1 in Greenville 2 Regional
The Big Ten regular season champion is the only No. 1 seed whose region does not have a former national champion. The Hoosiers are coached by three-time LSU champion Kim Mulkey, but she won those titles at Baylor. In fact, only two programs in the region have even made the Final Four: LSU, most recently in 2008, and NC State in 1998.
Indiana lost the regular season finale to a buzzer in Iowa and then lost a huge lead to Ohio State in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament. But the committee gave much more importance to how consistently good the Hoosiers were throughout the season. Behind fifth-year senior Grace Berger and senior Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana is strong on both sides of the ball. As befits the No. 1 seed, he should be preferred in every potential matchup en route to Dallas.
Seed: No. 2 Seattle 3 Regionally
Of course, if they win the first rounds, the Huskies will have to go all the way to the Pacific Northwest. But it’s a well-discussed topic that UConn generally didn’t have to travel nearly as much as most teams in the postseason due to its high rankings in many nearby regions.
Huskies won’t care where they play as long as they are relatively healthy as they appear to be. They will pair well with three other top crops in their region: #1 at Virginia Tech, #3 at Ohio, and #4 at Tennessee. They had already played the Lady Vols and beat them 84–67 in Knoxville on 26 January. If UConn faced the Hokies in the Regional Finals, it would be a Final Four 22-ride program matchup against the program. who has never sniffed the Final Four before.
Big Ten Conference
The league has been praised all season, and the committee has confirmed it. In the Big Ten, there are seven record-breaking teams on the field, and four – No. 1 in Indiana, No. 2 seed in Iowa and Maryland, and No. 3 in Ohio State – are among the top 16.
The league has only one national champion (Purdue in 1999) and has only reached the Final Four once since 2005. But it’s been a special regular season for the Big Ten, and the same can be said for the postseason.
Losers in brackets
Conference Big 12
There are six teams in the league, but only one — the regular-season co-champion Texas Longhorns — is among the top 16 teams that can play games early in the round. However, the Longhorns have a potentially difficult second-round matchup with Louisville. Another co-champion, Oklahoma, is sent to UCLA as the No. 5 seed. Iowa State is the Big 12 champion who beat Oklahoma and Texas to claim their title hours before it was released. NCAA grid – also ranks 5th. Iowa State was two places ahead of Tennessee in the NET rankings but will have to travel to Knoxville for the first rounds.
This is only the second time in the history of the Big Twelve, which began in 1996-97, that a league tournament champion has missed out on the top 16 seed in the NCAA tournament. It also happened in 2017 when West Virginia upset Baylor in the Big 12 final to finish 6th in the NCAA. But these climbers had double-digit losses that season.
There was good news for West Virginia this year, with the Mountaineers finishing in 10th place despite losing the Big 12 in the quarterfinals. However, Kansas’ loss to TCU in the first round of the Big 12 came at a cost, as the Jayhawks did not compete in the NCAA Tournament.
If the Big 12 shows up in the Sweet 16 this season, league teams will really have to work hard.
Resin North Carolina Heels
Seed: No. 6 in Seattle 3 regionally
Admittedly, the Tar Heels have been a streak in ACC play, at one point losing four in a row and leading 4-5 in their last nine games. However, some thought they would be the higher seed with two wins over Duke and one over Notre Dame. Instead, they could have a tough first round game against Purdue/St. John’s first four winner and then he might have to face Ohio State at the Buckeyes home court.
Washington State Cougars
Seed: No. 5 in Greenville 2 Regional
Like Iowa State, the Cougars have won their conference tournament but are not in the top 16. That’s not all that surprising, though, as Washington State finished seventh in the Pac-12 and couldn’t beat the top two seeds for the tournament title. while the Cyclones were third in the Big 12 and did beat the top two seeds to win their tournament.
However, the Cougars will have to travel to Philadelphia for the opening rounds, which will take place in Villanova, and face Florida’s always difficult Gulf Coast in the first round. FGKU won 14 times in a row; his most recent loss was in overtime at the Liberty Lady Flames on 21 January. Considering Washington…