Alexa PhilippouESPN3 minute read
The Stanford Cardinal and Virginia Tech Hokies won the hotly contested final two seeds of the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, the bracket of which was revealed exclusively on ESPN as part of the selection Sunday.
On the No. 1 seed line, co-regular season champion Pac-12 Cardinal and tournament champion ACC Hokies join regular season champion Big Ten Indiana Hoosiers, as well as the most seeded high: the undefeated, defending national champion South Carolina Roosters game.
With reigning National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston leading the charge, South Carolina — which hasn’t lost a game in more than a calendar year — is six wins away from becoming the fourth program to repeat as a national champion (joining UConn, Tennessee and USC) as well as the fifth to finish a season undefeated (alongside UConn, Tennessee, Texas and Baylor).
The last two places on row 1 were considered quite open before the selection on Sunday; according to ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme, the Iowa Hawkeyes and UConn Huskies also had a case for securing those spots after strong play to win the Big Ten and Big East tournaments, respectively.
Powered by National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark, Iowa is looking to qualify for the program’s first Final Four since 1993 (then coached by legendary C. Vivian Stringer). UConn, which fell in the title game against South Carolina last season, is on a quest to play in a record 15th consecutive Final Four and win the school’s 12th national championship, which would be its first since 2016. .
Iowa and UConn now find themselves on the No. 2 starting line, with the Maryland Terrapins and Utah Utes, Maryland appearing in the South Carolina quadrant, Iowa at Stanford, Utah in Indiana and UConn in that of Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech — one of the hottest teams in the nation as 11-game winners in a row — has never topped the Sweet 16, in which it last played in 1999.
The Cardinal, who has appeared in two consecutive Final Fours, is looking to win a fourth national title and second in three years after winning the 2021 championship in the “bubble” of San Antonio. Despite losing two of their last three games, Stanford’s work went 9-3 against the NET top 25 and 15 NET top 50 wins.
The Hokies and Hawkeyes have both been rewarded for recent quality play, each moving up one line from the start since the NCAA Women’s Basketball Committee’s last early reveal on Feb. 23.
Considered a lock as No. 1 alongside the Gamecocks, the Hoosiers hope to build on the history of the program they have established over the past two tournaments, first advancing to the Elite Eight in 2021 while by doing the Sweet 16 the following year.
The other teams that will host the first and second round competition are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Duke Blue Devils, Ohio State Buckeyes, LSU Tigers (all 3 seeds), in addition to the UCLA Bruins, Villanova Wildcats, Texas Longhorns and Tennessee Lady Flights. (the 4 seeds). The Buckeyes, Bruins, Wildcats, Longhorns and Lady Vols all fell in their respective conference tournament finals.
The last four teams eliminated were Columbia, Kansas, UMass and Oregon, according to the NCAA.
UCLA and Tennessee — which upset Stanford and LSU, respectively, in their league tournaments — have been among the biggest lifters since the last early reveal, replacing the Michigan Wolverines and Arizona Wildcats in the top 16. Meanwhile, LSU moved from the No. 2 line to the 3 line, and Utah from a 1-seeded to a 2-seeded, after retiring early in the conference tournament.
The 2023 tournament will feature two regionals, replacing the previous four-site format, with Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matches taking place March 24-27 in Greenville, SC and Seattle. The regionals will be called Greenville 1, Greenville 2, Seattle 3 and Seattle 4.
For the second year, the women’s tournament will feature 68 teams, with the first four games taking place Wednesday and Thursday at host venues on campus. These matchups are: Sacred Heart vs. Southern (16 seeded), Tennessee Tech vs. Monmouth (16 seeded), Illinois vs. Mississippi State (11 seeded), and Purdue vs. St. John’s (11 seeded).
The first round competition will take place on Friday and Saturday and the second round matches will take place on Sunday and Monday. The Final Four will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on March 31 (national semifinals) and April 2 (national championship game).