Four of the Power 5 conference tournaments are complete, and the Big East ends on Monday night. So with less than a week to go before Selection Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App), it’s a good time to reevaluate the women’s bracketology landscape.
The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC tournaments were in some ways a microcosm of the season: unpredictable results, parity and close games everywhere except where South Carolina was concerned. The Gamecocks, who have now gone an entire calendar year without a loss, have completely dominated the SEC Tournament, like they have the rest of the season, and could further isolate themselves from the rest of the country .
In the other three leagues, the tournament’s No. 1 seeds all failed to reach the championship game. Those results mixed up the bracket quite a bit. 1 seeds — Indiana, Stanford and Utah — all lost early in their tournaments over the weekend. But so did 2-seed Maryland – which made a brief appearance as No. 1 – and LSU. This allowed Virginia Tech, which had made an impressive run through the ACC Tournament, to clinch the No. 1 seed on Sunday night. Iowa’s dismantling of Ohio State in the Big Ten Finals may have been the highlight of the weekend, and the Hawkeyes are now knocking on the door of the No. 1 seed.
All of this has set the stage for an eventful Selection Sunday, yet the week ahead could provide even more drama. The Big 12 will have a lot to say about how the bracket is arranged. There will also be some mid-major conferences as Championship Week continues. Here’s a road map of everything to watch in the final days before the 2023 Women’s NCAA Tournament brackets unfold.
Battle for the No. 1 seed
Virginia Tech won the first ACC championship in program history.
Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amur combined to score 45 points as Virginia Tech defeated Louisville 75–67 in the ACC Championship Game.
All of the top-line contenders have played their final games before Selection Sunday, but that doesn’t close the book on the debate over which teams should get the final two No. 1 picks. South Carolina and Indiana are locks, but Stanford, Virginia Tech and Iowa are competing for the final two spots. The Cardinals and Hokies are the 1-seeds in Sunday’s bracketology, but all three teams make a compelling case.
The Hokies and the Hokies have recently won conference tournament titles. Stanford is the only one to have a regular season championship. Poor overall resumes of Virginia Tech (10-2 against Net Top 25) and Stanford (9-3 against Top 25 and 15-4 against Top 50, which ties South Carolina for most wins in that category) The Best. Iowa and Stanford have top-10-rated schedules. Virginia Tech is outside the top 30, and its non-conference list is ranked No. 129.
What would be a stronger component: a complete body of work or a recent play? The committee will have much more to sort out.
In the most recent Top-16 reveal, the committee relied more heavily on recent results. That would give the edge to the Hokies, winners of 11 straight, and Iowa, which has won seven of its last eight games. The Hawkeyes also have something else going for them: two indelible wins on consecutive Sundays on national TV. Caitlin Clark’s twisting 3-pointer came first at the buzzer to seal the win for Indiana. Then it was a 105–72 Big Ten title game destruction of the Buckeyes, in which Clark made another lasting impression with a 30-point, 17-assist, 10-rebound triple-double. How will committee members weigh Iowa’s loss to Kansas State and Illinois as well as a 28-point pounding by Maryland?
Stanford has better overall results than Iowa, but the Cardinals have also lost two of their last three games. I am aligned with Stanford and Virginia Tech, but the committee may have a different view. It’s the rare year that there can’t be a wrong answer.
What happens in the WCC, Summit and C-USA tournaments?
Two or three leagues emerge each season as bid stealers – conferences with a confirmed regular-season champion that is certain to receive an at-large invitation but fails to win a tournament. This meant two bids from a league that was projected to have only one, reducing the number of at-large bids available to bubble teams.
Gonzaga is one of the top eight seeds in the bracketology and will advance to the NCAA tournament win or lose in the WCC tournament, which ends Tuesday in Las Vegas. If someone upsets the Zags, the WCC’s automatic bid goes to that team and Gonzaga takes an at-large bid that could currently be designated a bubble team like West Virginia or St. John’s.
If Middle Tennessee makes the Conference USA championship game, the Lady Raiders should make the NCAA field in a big way — and another bubble team will be out. South Dakota State dominated the summit clash throughout the season and is also a good candidate for the big draw. Should UNLV fail to cap an unbeaten Mountain West season with a tournament title, the Lady Rebels would become a bubble team.
The Ivy League is another conference to watch, perhaps for the opposite reason. If Princeton or Columbia fail to win their semifinal match on Friday, they will be eliminated. He can make it to the bracket for another team. At present, it is the best scenario for an outside team to go up without playing a game.
Availability of Key Players
Olivia Myles in obvious pain with knee injury
Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return.
Injuries have played a significant role throughout the season. From UConn’s stream of injuries to Texas’ slow start with Rory Harmon missing time on some of North Carolina’s key players to Indiana’s ability to cope with the lengthy Grace Berger absence, player health is a constant discussion. was the subject of Now that the season is nearing its peak, the status of two ACC point guards — Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles and NC State’s Diamond Johnson — will be a question all week.
While whether or not a team is included in an NCAA tournament field, player availability is one of the criteria the committee considers concerning seeding. If Miles and Johnson, each of whom missed the ACC tournament, do not return, the committee may add it to their teams’ preference. It’s unlikely that the Irish, the ACC regular-season champs, will finish outside the Top 16 — a position they’ve been in all season — but the No. 3 seed could turn into No. 4 if Miles, Notre Dame’s best player And the catalyst, can not go.
The Irish were able to defeat a Johnson-less Wolfpack in the ACC quarterfinals, but lost without Miles against Notre Dame Louisville. It seemed that NC State was negatively affected by Johnson’s absence as well. Given how the Wolfpack played without him, their seed could also take a hit if Johnson doesn’t return.
Teams must inform the committee what a realistic diagnosis is for an injured player prior to Selection Sunday. Sometimes this does not happen, leaving committee members to speculate or not consider the injury at all.
It should also be noted that this committee did not seem to account for injuries and player availability, which it strongly held during its two top-16 appearances. Yukon is the best example of this. The Huskies were given the No. 1 seed in the first round. The resume looked like a No. 1 seed, but much of it was built around Azzi Fudd’s playing. She was not available at the time of the reveal, but the committee appeared to downplay the importance. If the committee does the same with Miles and Johnson, the Irish and the Wolfpack (projected as the No. 7 seeds) should have no problem with their seeds.
How any team performs in the NCAA Tournament without its most important player is another story.
The role of the Big 12 tournament in shaping the Top 16 and bubble
Oklahoma, the No. 5 seed, could still make the Top 16. Texas, currently a 4-seed, could still reach a higher seed. West Virginia, the “last team,” is fighting for a spot in the field. And it all settles down in Kansas City this weekend.
Due to an injury to Miles and Duke’s struggles at the end of the season, Texas could be in line for the No. 3 seed with a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament. This is significant because it would mean avoiding the No. 1 seed in the region until a potential Elite Eight game.
The Sooners have a few teams to pass up, but a Big 12 championship should be enough to do so. Anything less than a title, and the Sooners would not host the first and second round NCAA tournament games.
West Virginia is still probably a few wins away from securing the bid. If the Mountaineers beat Oklahoma State in their first game and then Oklahoma in the semifinals, a bid should come through. One loss for the Cowgirls, and it won’t be. Even showing 1-1 won’t be enough if either of them appears to be a bid stealer.
The jump in seeding won’t be as important for Baylor and Kansas, but for two teams that were scattered in February, a longer stay in Kansas City could do wonders for their confidence.