The 2023 Women’s NCAA Tournament bracket is complete, the schedule is set, and a champion will be crowned at the Final Four in Dallas in a few weeks.
The undefeated and defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks rode a 38-game winning streak into March Madness. ESPN analytics give the Gamecocks a 46.4% chance to win the title.
The UConn Huskies, who lost to the Gamecocks in the NCAA title game a year ago and are the No. 2 seed on the other side of the bracket this season, have the next best odds at 11.2%. The top-ranked Stanford Cardinal and Indiana Hoosiers are both at 7.1%, and the No. 1 Virginia Tech Hokies are close behind at 5.3%.
Brackets are open! Visit the Women’s Tournament and fill out your bracket now! Click here for a printable bracket.
We have already zoned 68 team fields. We have named the best players in the bracket. Now ESPN’s Charlie Cream, Alexa Filippou and M.A. Voepel ranks the true championship contenders, who has a chance to dethrone South Carolina, and join several ESPN analysts to make their Final Four and championship predictions.
If South Carolina doesn’t win its second straight title, which team will lift the championship trophy?
Woople: South Carolina has overtaken the Tennessee Lady Volunteers as the best program in what is still a very tough SEC, even in the conference for the year. For everyone outside of the UConn fan base, the Huskies are the Michael Myers of women’s hoops: you can’t escape them because they’re featured in an endless series of sequels. Stanford is a corporate law firm for college sports.
I don’t think anyone is going to stop the Gamecocks from repeating; they have too many good players who play well together and coach Dawn Staley has helped keep them fully focused on the task at hand.
But if anyone is going to knock them out, it could be Stanford in the national semifinals or UConn in the national championship game. That’s simply based on how close these two teams played the regular season games: the Cardinal lost by five in overtime in November and the Huskies by four in February. We can’t be sure that Stanford and UConn will make it to the Final Four; this is especially true of the cardinal. But if they do, the Cardinal and Huskies will at least know firsthand what it will take to beat the Gamecocks if they meet again.
Philip: After South Carolina, I think it’s between Indiana and UConn. Despite losing two of their last three games, the Hoosiers have been the most consistent unranked team in Columbia, strong on both ends of the floor and boasting two star power in Mackenzie Holmes and great balance in Grace Berger and Sydney Parrish. , Yarden Garzon, Sarah Scalia, and Chloe Moore-McNeil. While some may see Indiana’s lack of depth as a disadvantage, I can’t see the Hoosiers being the deciding factor given everything they have going for them. (And I’ll explain about the Huskies a bit further down.)
Cream: Picking #2 to beat #1 isn’t particularly inventive, but I believe Indiana has the best chance to beat South Carolina. It will take the right night and the Gamecocks won’t be playing at their peak, but if that happens, Indiana has enough in its arsenal to go the distance. The Hoosiers move and shoot the ball well and at least have the balance and experience to attack South Carolina if the two meet in the championship game.
Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament Preview
Charlie Creme breaks down his predictions for Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament future.
Which #1 seed will lose first?
Cream: While I like Seattle’s matchups against Stanford in the first three rounds of the Region 4 tournament, there are concerns about the Cardinal. They’ve had bad moments or even complete games — see: 47 points against USC or five in the first quarter against Colorado — question whether Stanford can string together four good games to advance to the Final Four. If the Cardinal make it to the Elite Eight, can they beat the second-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes?
Philip: The Cardinal are experienced in March and can obviously turn things around in the coming weeks, but the way they finished the regular season and their recent offensive issues are worrisome. And I don’t think so likely, the fact that Virginia Tech hasn’t played in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament in nearly 25 years makes me wonder if the Hokies had a night off and the pressure caught up to them. They don’t have the easiest road, with potential matchups against the South Dakota Jackrabbits or USC Trojans and the Tennessee or Iowa Cyclones.
Woople: As Alexa points out, Virginia Tech is a program with little experience of No. 1 seeds when it comes to NCAA Tournament runs: South Carolina and Stanford won the last two titles, while Indiana went to the Elite Eight two years ago. Based on that, the Hokies look the most vulnerable. But they are also playing very confidently, winning 11 games in a row.
Name a team that is significantly underrated.
Cream: While I’m picking UConn to come out of Seattle Game 3, the Ohio State Buckeyes could be the team to crash the party. The No. 3 seed started the season 19-0 largely without Jaycee Sheldon. Now he’s back and their young players, particularly freshman Coty McMahon, have proven they’re ready for the Big Ten challenge. Ohio State’s pressing style can cause problems for any team, especially if you haven’t seen it. The Louisville Cardinals struggled mightily against him earlier this season, and the LSU Tigers faded in last year’s second round under pressure from Ohio State.
UNC NCAA Tournament Preview
Charlie Cream breaks down his predictions for North Carolina’s NCAA Tournament future.
Philip: Ohio State is a dangerous top three for all the reasons Charlie mentioned, but I can’t believe the Buckeyes’ potential second-round matchup will be an opponent. 6th seed North Carolina Tar Heel. This should not happen at the beginning of the tournament!
Woople: I’m not saying that No. 5 seed Iowa State was significantly less. However, in the women’s bracket, the difference between the 4 and 5 seeds is huge, as the top four in each region are crowned champions. The selection committee made its top 16 decisions on Sunday before the Big 12 tournament title game was even played. The committee didn’t seem to take into account the fact that the Cyclones beat the Texas Longhorns as well as other NCAA Tournament teams by double digits, the Baylor Bears in the quarterfinals and the Oklahoma Sooners in the semifinals.
If there’s one consistent inconsistency on the committee over the years, it’s that they contradict themselves about how important the conference tournaments are. They even do it in the same section of the bracket, highlighting one team’s conference-tournament success while downplaying another team’s success.
UConn’s NCAA Tournament Preview
Charlie Cream breaks down his predictions for UConn’s NCAA Tournament future.
Which team has a chance to win all but the No. 1 seeds?
Philip: UConn. The Huskies had a tough season, but it made them come together more than ever for the common goal of winning a championship. They’ve turned things around since February and are getting the best results from Dorka Juhasz and Alia Edwards, and the strong post play hasn’t necessarily been strong in the last few tournaments. Because of the experience in high-pressure situations and the possible transcendence of Azzie Fudd, I’m picking UConn as the no. No. 1 seed with a chance to win it all — and, in fact, the second favorite to cut the nets.
Woople: The program, which has 11 NCAA titles and has been to the Final Four every year since 2008, is in jeopardy unless something drastically changes. But since Charlie and Alexa have UConn covered, let’s look at Iowa.
The Hawkeyes can be an offensive force like few teams we’ll see in the tournament. While they have been a good defensive team this season in terms of getting stops when they really need to, they still need to score for them. Can their offense carry them to the title? It will be difficult; UConn still looks like it could be the dominant #2 seed. But if the Hawkeyes do it, it will be with a really exciting brand of basketball.
Iowa NCAA Tournament Preview
Charlie Creme breaks down his predictions for Iowa’s NCAA Tournament future.
Do we cut the other #2 seeds? The Maryland Terrapins were past national champions, but that’s 17 years in the rearview mirror. Ironically, the year the Terps won it all — 2006 — they beat the Utah Utes, the second No. 2 seed of the year, in the Elite Eight. Maryland and Utah could both be Elite Eight teams this year, but it seems unlikely that they will be in Dallas.
Cream: We still don’t know what UConn will look like with Fudd fully back. He returned to the lineup in the Big East Tournament, but didn’t make much of an impact. This may not be the best indicator given the timing. If it’s like the Huskies’ version of November with wins over Texas, NC State Wolfpack, Duke Blue Devils and Iowa, UConn is a Final Four team. Without Fudd, the Huskies were competitive against South Carolina in February, so they’re another team that could push heavy favorites.
Final Four pick
LSU NCAA Tournament Preview
Charlie Creme breaks down LSU’s predictions for its NCAA Tournament future.
Andrea Adelson: South Carolina (champ), LSU, UConn, Iowa
Charlie Cream: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Drive Ellison: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Iowa
Kelly Gramlich: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Iowa
Doug Kezirian: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Iowa
Kevin Pelton: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Alexa Philippou: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Roy Philpott: South Carolina (Champion), Utah, Virginia Tech, Iowa
Steffi Sorensen: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Christy Tomascutti: South Carolina (champion), Indiana, UConn, Stanford
MA Voepel: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, UConn, Iowa
Stephanie White: South Carolina (Champion), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Iowa